New varieties of fodder beet are breaking the barriers for dry matter yield, according to the latest trial results from Limagrain UK.

Top of the fodder beet list is Brick, a variety that was commercially launched in 2017 and boasts a dry matter yield of 22.4tonnes/ha, similar to dry matter yields of high-performing varieties that now exceed 20 tonnes/ha.

“We’ve run trials on our site in Lincolnshire on 14 commercially available varieties of fodder beet for more than 10years,” says Limagrain’s fodder crop manager Martin Titley, “but in the past two years we have seen significant increases in dry matter yields coming from new genetics. Plant breeders have really challenged the convention and pushed yields to new levels.”

Trial results show that Brick yielded 18% more dry matter than the control Magnum, followed by another recent addition to Limagrain, Tarine, which yielded 5% more than the control.

“These varieties with high dry matter yields are adding significant feed value to the crop,” adds Mr Titley. “And the gap is widening between varieties. The difference in dry matter yields is 8t/ha between Brick and the worst performing variety. This is estimated to have a feed value of nearly £900/ha, based on AHDB’s relative feed value calculator that costs the dry matter in fodder beet at £111.69/tonne.”

Mr Titley also highlighted the advantages of ‘clean’ varieties of fodder beet.

“Fodder beets that show cleanliness at harvest are beneficial where the crop is harvested and fed, but there are no washing or chopping facilities available,” he adds. “The variety Robbos, with clean, yellow roots at harvest is very beneficial here, and it also has a lower dry matter content of 19% that encourages intakes.”

Sown in April, fodder beet is harvested from October onwards and can be fed in a total mixed ration or ad-lib with maize silage, or it can be grazed in situ.

Although there are no recommended lists for fodder beets, Limagrain publishes its annual trial data to help growers make informed decisions.

“This year’s results will catch the eye of experienced and new fodder beet growers,” adds Mr Titley. “For the same growing costs, farmers can produce significantly more dry matter per hectare by opting for the higher yielding fodder beet varieties.”

Limagrain’s latest fodder beet trial results are available from its web site

Trial data

Fodder beet typical yields and feed quality

Average dry matter yield = 15-18tonnes/ha

Average fresh yields = 80-100tonnes/ha

Dry matter = 15-24%

Crude protein = 12-13%

Digestibility value = 78%

Metabolisable energy = 12.5-13MJ/kgDM

Typical costs and values

Total cost

Cost per acre £591 (£1460/ha)

Cost per tonne fresh weight £16

Cost per tonne utilised DM £115

Relative value £/tonne DM £122

Cost per litre of milk 6.2p

Cost per kg of liveweight gain 34.3p