Herbicide tolerant sugar beet enters UK trials

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Two sugar beet varieties with a natural tolerance to a highly effective herbicide that cannot otherwise be used in the crop have been entered into official trials in the UK. The new varieties expand the weed control options available to growers while also making it easier. The varieties could be commercially available to growers in time for the 2019-20 season, approval permitting.

Bred by KWS using standard breeding techniques, the varieties feature a natural tolerance to herbicides of the acetolactate synthase (ALS) inhibitor class. The technology will be branded CONVISO® SMART.

“Conviso sugar beet is an exciting development in sugar beet production and will enable growers to control a wide range of weeds, including many otherwise hard to tackle species, with greater ease and without risking crop safety or yield potential,” says Simon Witheford, KWS sugar beet product manager.

“It is the result of many years of research and development that will benefit growers in much the same way as previous advances, such as Rhizomania and nematode resistance. It is exciting that we can provide a non-GMO solution to weed control in sugar beet,” adds Simon Witheford.

The tolerance to ALS inhibitor herbicides is the result of a natural variation in the gene encoding the acetolactate synthase (ALS) enzyme. Once identified, this was then back-crossed into elite hybrid plants to produce high yielding varieties suited to commercial cultivation. It was not forced by mutagens or mutagenic conditions and is not the result of GM breeding techniques.

Plants carrying this variation are tolerant to a specific ALS-inhibiting herbicide developed by Bayer.

“The herbicide has performed exceptionally in trials demonstrating reliable control of a wide range of broadleaved and grass weeds, and effective control of weed beet populations,” says Edward Hagues, Bayer root crop product manager.

“In addition, the new herbicide offers greater flexibility in application timing compared with standard herbicides and requires fewer passes to achieve control,” adds Mr Hagues.

An application supporting the herbicide’s registration in sugar beet is currently being evaluated by regulators. For the technology to be available to UK growers both the herbicide and varieties will need to gain registration through their respective regulatory bodies.

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