French Sugar Beet grower of the Year 2016
French Sugar Beet Grower Of The Year 2016
At the end of May this year, the ‘French Beet Grower of the Year’ competition was held in Paris. This was organised for the 3rd year running jointly by the Deleplanque seed company, who are agents for Strube sugar beet seed in France, in collaboration with the periodical Le Betteravier Français (“The French Beet Grower”) – similar to the British Sugar Beet Review.
There were 60 contenders in the 2016 competition, all sugar beet growers who had something to say about the way they grow sugar beet.
A jury, composed of 10 members, chose 10 finalists. The jury members were: the three chief agronomists of the three sugar groups in France (Tereos, Cristal Union and Saint-Louis/Südzucker), the director of the ITB (Institut Technique Français de la Betterave Industrielle – the inter-professional research organisation for all things to do with beet and sugar), the President of the Growers’ Association, the Director of the Betteravier Français, two representatives from Deleplanque and Theodor von Hahn from Strube GmbH & Co KG.
Visionary sugar beet growers confident in the future
The finalists were a good mix of younger and older sugar beet growers, large and small in scale, men and women, but all with a common denominator: a clear vision of their technical approach to sugar beet growing and confidence in the future. All French sugar beet growers could vote via the internet for their favourite candidate. There were over three thousand visits to the website and the organisers received over eight hundred votes.
This year’s winner was Marie-Claire d’Halluin, a young grower from Eure in Upper Normandy in the north of France. Before moving to her farm, Marie-Claire had made her final internship studies at the Sugar Beet Institute. It was there that she learned the scientific and experimental side of growing of sugar beet and gained a taste for new techniques.
Winner utilises new techniques with an eye on costs
Ms. d’Halluin utilises such techniques as nitrogen placement alongside the seed furrow and the French equivalent of the FAR system of herbicide application to reduce doses. Despite farming just 11 hectares of sugar beet (around the French average), she has dared to invest in the latest equipment – a new drill that allows the very best placement of seed and a cultivator enabling seedbed preparation in one or two passages.
Ms. d’Halluin is also competent in accounting and had closely calculated her production costs and return on investment. She works hard to reduce costs, addressing every stage of growing the crop with great care, investing in the best equipment and working together with neighbours to further reduce costs.
Respect for the soil with reduced pesticides
Reading each candidate’s entry, it was clear that each gave great importance to respecting the soil and soil life. Many were using techniques such as no-till preparation and inter-cropping and combining this with nitrogen trapping, organic matter input and improving the soil structure. In addition, reducing the use of pesticides was a constant theme with these sugar beet growers: the utilisation of band spraying, traditional hoeing between the rows or the use of fingers wheels or harrow Weeders.
The prizes were awarded at a 5 star hotel in the centre of Paris with more than a hundred people present. A fine dinner was enjoyed and there was much “talking shop”. The winner won a weekend in Venice but, more importantly perhaps, the honour of being recognized by the profession.