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Sugar beet: Sustainability through partnership

Sugar beet provides the raw material for our various sugar products. In the seven countries where we produce sugar from sugar beet, close to 13.000 growers  grow sugar beet destined to be processed in our factories into high-quality sugar products. Sugar beet farming sustainability is therefore a high priority for us, for the sake of both the environment and our Business.

nordzucker

Working with growers

Nordzucker has a tradition of developing long-term relationships with beet growers. Our growers have typically grown beet for us for many years, making them highly skilled and specialised. By working together for our common interests and harnessing our shared expertise, we continuously improve the sustainability and productivity of beet farming practices, ensuring that the needs of the future can be met.

The backbone of our grower’s consultancy is through the Agri Centers, which are part of our factories. Here dedicated agronomist/consultants, are ready to assist growers on questions like soil management, pest and disease monitoring/control, harvesting and beet delivery. The sugar beet consultants are also working on field trials and sustainability issues.Keeping in close contact with our growers is important for us. We use different means like personal consultation, field days, and winter assemblies to inform about the latest in research and development and the sugar market. One of our main tool to communicate is the Agriportal, which includes the latest news from the field and functions for contracting, growing and the campaign. As our growers are constantly on the go, we also developed our own growers app, so they can inform themselves wherever they are.

Transporting large amounts of beets is a complex process when you have to coordinate delivery from close to 13,000 growers. In many countries we use our AgriLog system, which digitally connects the growers fields to the harvester and transporter and provides traceability from field to factory. This ensures that beets are harvested, stored and transported in the most effective way for production at the factory.

Research and development

One way we support farming sustainability is through our work in agricultural research and development. When new knowledge becomes available that could lead to improvements in beet farming ¬– for example, by using less fertiliser or increasing production efficiency – we share this knowledge directly with our growers. In this way we can work together to improve farming practices while further strengthening our relationships with growers.

Field research into seed variety trials, innovative growing techniques and pest and disease management is carried out by our partners in Germany (ARGE Nord), Denmark/Sweden (Nordic Beet Research-NBR) and Finland (SJT) and at the Institute for Sugar Beet research (IFZ) at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Additionally we are active in other research projects and sugar beet societies like the International Institute of sugar beet research (IIRB).

Impact

 

Our knowledge-sharing approach has had a major positive impact on beet-farming sustainability over the past few decades. For example, the use of nitrogen fertilization among our beet growers has been reduced, while in the same period yields have almost doubled. Since 2010 N application in German beet growing has dropped from 11 to 8.7 kg/t we now need much less nitrogen to produce a tonne of sugar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A naturally sustainable crop

By nature, sugar beet is an environmentally friendly crop. It has a deep root system that is good for the soil structure in crop rotation. Sugar beet makes good use of available nutrients, and needs less nitrogen fertilizer than most other crops grown in the sugar beet areas. Sugar beet continues to grow 1in the autumn when other crops are already harvested and keeps absorbing nitrogen from the soil, reducing the risk of nitrogen leakage.

Sugar beet is always grown in a crop rotation alternating with other crops, and they are important for breaking off rotations that would otherwise be too dominated by cereals. This lessens the prevalence of weeds, plant pests and diseases, both in the sugar beet and in other crops, and is an important part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In all Nordzucker countries, our growers are following national Integrated Pest Management plans to avoid unnecessary applications of plant protection products and act according to the following guidelines: 1) Observe and monitor for pest and diseases, 2) Assess potential alternatives, e.g. naturally occurring beneficial insects already in the field, 3) act when a clearly defined threshold has been reached and no alternative is applicable. Our growers are here supported by national research institutions through seasonal monitoring.

The sugar beet  is grown on fertile soils suited for beet growing and close to our sugar factories.