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Comparative yields of turnips, sugar and fodder beet on the southern tablelands of New South Wales

P. Simpson, M. Keys and R. Walker

N.S.W. Department of Agriculture at Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Wellington

Promotion of sugar and fodder beet as potential sources of fuel and/or fodder has aroused farmer interest. During 1979-81 a series of seven irrigation trials was sown in the Tablelands areas of N.S.W. to assess agronomic and economic potential. Dryland crops all failed, so results are from irrigated areas only.

Results and Discussion

There were no significant variety differences in any trial for sugar and alcohol yields. Pooled results were:

These yields compare favourably with the long term-average in Great Britain (1) but are 20-40% below those obtained in Tasmania and New Zealand (2).

Turnips equalled or significantly outyielded both sugar and fodder beet on all occasions. Average total forage yields were:-

Beets are expensive to grow and demand constant management, including attention to seedbed preparation, sowing, weed control and irrigation. Estimated costs per hectare are as follows:

Soil type (particularly pH and drainage), weed control and irrigation requirements appear to be the costly and critical inputs for beet production. We doubt some of the optimistic values placed on the surplus leaves (3). Leaf yield progressively dropped after maturity and would be negligible if the crop is to be left in the paddock until late winter to keep processing plants operational. In two trials after heavy summer rain, significant rotting occurred within six weeks (up to 30%) when tubers were nearly mature.

1. Chilean Nitrate Agricultural Service, Sheet No. 144 Feb. 1981

2. Tasmanian Journal of Agriculture - May 1979

3. R. Mcann, Fuel Ethanol Research and Development Workshop, Canberra 1980.

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