Seed treatments and methods of sowing sugar beet were tested in the laboratory and in field trials in 1975, 1976 and 1977 on a range of soil types including a sand, several loams and a peat.
‘Advancing’ the seed by controlled imbibition of water followed by drying before sowing, gave 2–3 % more emergence. Seedlings appeared 3–4 days earlier and were up to 50 % heavier at the four to six leaf stage, but by final harvest yields of sugar per unit area were similar from advanced and untreated seed. ‘Priming’ in osmotic solutions of salts or polyethylene glycol, to bring all seeds to the point of germination, before drying back and sowing gave inconsistent effects in the field with emergence percentage frequently being below that of the control. Steeping seed in water, aimed at removing germination inhibitors, improved germination and reduced the time to, and duration of, germination when tested in the laboratory but gave poorer results than the untreated control in the field. ‘Chitting’ the seed in the laboratory greatly improved emergence characteristics but treatment effects in the field were very variable. Chitted seeds were sown in carrier gels in the field to try to protect the radicles from damage but seedling establishment was no better from fluid drilling than from normal dry seed sown ‘raw’ or pelleted in clay, even when only chitted seeds were put into the fluid. Possible reasons for this are discussed.
Fluid-drilled seeds consistently gave quicker emergence and larger seedlings. Even when these were 30–50 % heavier, differences had usually become negligible by the end of the average 230 days long growing season, so that sugar yields were not consistently affected by the treatments tested.