Sugar beet seed prices: latest analysis 2017

Sugar beet varieties will again have some significant differences in seed price this year and, when all input costs have to be more and more carefully scrutinised, I believe that there is definitely some room for cost-effective decision making and savings on input costs.

Sugar beet seed price analysis: 2017 Sowing

Firstly looking back at the prices for sugar beet seed for 2017 sowing, there were 5 price groups (prices are per unit of seed):

Standard Xbeet Plus Poncho Beta Xbeet Plus Cruiser Force Xbeet Plus + £ over Group 1 + % over Group 1
GROUP 1 £133.29 £166.59 £168.99
GROUP 2 £141.58 £174.88 £177.28 + £8.29 + 4.9%
GROUP 3 £150.15 £183.45 £185.85 + £16.86 + 10.0%
GROUP 4 £190.35 £192.75 + £23.76 + 14.1%
GROUP 5 £200.35 £202.75 + £33.76 + 20.0%

For 2017, the country’s most popular seed treatment, CruiserForce Xbeet Plus, cost £35.26 per unit over and above the cost of standard seed with no insecticide. The alternative was Poncho Beta seed treatment, which cost £33.30. (Nuprid seed treatment had been withdrawn at the end of 2016.)

Sugar beet seed price analysis: 2018 Sowing

The good news is that the price of a unit box of standard seed for 2018 sowing has come down by at least £2.50. This price saving has apparently come from cost saving efficiencies in the Germains seed treatment and pelleting at King’s Lynn and has been passed on. The cost of Poncho Beta seed treatment has also come down by £0.93/ unit. The cost of Cruiser Force has risen by £1.44 per unit. The prices of all seed varieties, seed treatments and seed processing and packaging are negotiated each year by British Sugar and the NFU with each individual supplier independently to gain the best prices possible for the grower. As a result of this, the prices for sugar beet seed in the UK market are some of the most competitive in the whole of Europe.

Standard Xbeet Plus Poncho Beta Xbeet Plus Cruiser Force Xbeet Plus + £ over Group 1 + % over Group 1
GROUP 1 £130.79 £163.16 £167.49
GROUP 2 £138.80 £171.17 £175.50 + £8.01 + 4.9%
GROUP 3 £146.04 £178.41 £182.74 + £15.25 + 9.3%
GROUP 4 £192.09 £196.42 + £28.93 + 17.7%
GROUP 5 £203.59 £207.92 + £40.43 + 24.8%

Again, all the varieties in the higher price groups – Group 3, 4 and 5 come from one breeder (KWS / Betaseed).

Of course, these are the costs for a unit of sugar beet seed and, in all likelihood, this will be sown at about 1.20 units per hectare in order to achieve a final established population of about 100,000 plants per hectare. The cost difference between a Group 1 variety and a Group 5 variety then reaches nearly £50 per hectare.

Of course, IF the higher priced varieties yielded to their promised figures, there would be a better balance of cost versus return. However, it is yet to be proven to my satisfaction that these varieties can fully deliver on the yields seen in trials. The transition from trial seed to large bulks of commercial seed that deliver the same high level of performance shows the real mettle of both the variety and the seed producer.

In my opinion, I think that you can still find all the sugar beet varieties that you need for 2018 in Price Groups 1 and 2. There are 13 Rhizomania resistant varieties (including HaydnPasteur , Landon and Degas ) and three Rhizomania resistant varieties with additional BCN tolerance (including Thor), the majority of them with very good commercial provenance and excellent, consistently high performance seed.  I honestly don’t believe that there is any real need to pay another 9%, 18% or 25% in seed costs for a Group 3, Group 4 or Group 5 variety.

Sugar beet seed: a sophisticated technology package

Seed is the vital ingredient in your sugar beet growing, but sugar beet seed is often said to be expensive.  However, the sugar beet seed that you buy today is one of the most sophisticated technology packages that you will find on the farm. The genetics of the variety are presented via the hybrid seed produced with great care, expertise and proficiency in the south of France and central Italy. This seed is then cleaned, graded and processed to a remarkable degree in specialist seed production facilities.

All seed is delivered in bulk as naked ‘ready’ seed to Germains UK Ltd, King’s Lynn, Norfolk (a sister company to British Sugar plc and part of ABF Ltd.). All seed receives two fungicides – a thiram steep and  a dressing with hymexazol (tachigaren) to protect against the seedling diseases that cause damping off.  Then the seed undergoes a fully calibrated priming and receives a state-of-the-art pellet, two insecticides and a polymer coating.

In a Group 1 variety, the cost of the actual seed is about 56% of the total cost. The two insecticides make up about 21% of the cost and the remaining 23% is made up by the cost of priming, pelleting, treatments, packaging, despatch and finance. In a Group 2 variety, the cost of the actual seed will be about 58%. In a Group 4 variety, the seed makes up about 64% of the total cost of the package.

Sugar beet seed: quality matters

Good sugar beet seed quality results in an increased speed and evenness of field emergence and a higher final plant population. The final result then being a higher sugar yield. Variety performance is the combination of competitive genetics and excellent seed quality all in an advanced pellet with protection from pests and diseases.

Early, fast, and even establishment of sugar beet plants is a key driver for higher yields. This is delivered by high seed quality. Fortunately, the sugar beet seed quality delivered for the UK is probably the best in the world, due to the stringent demands of the market and the ongoing “arms race” by all breeders to yet further improve variety and seed performance.

Like some more help choosing your sugar beet seed

If you would like some more advice on which sugar beet varieties to plant, then please do not hesitate to contact the Strube UK team.  Alternatively you can contact us by calling Richard at our Fakenham office on (01328) 851572 or by emailing him by clicking here