Sugar beet harvest in the UK often takes place in wet soil conditions because it is harvested from late Autumn into winter. These conditions mean harvesters often have difficulties travelling across the fields or sink into the soil.
More soil sticks to the sugar beet (which needs to be cleaned at the processing factory) and the soil is damaged (compacted) by the large machinery used for harvesting. We developed a decision support tool (DST) to help plan the best time for harvest to occur to minimise these impacts.
The DST used weekly weather forecasts coupled with a soil water balance model to calculate the soil moisture conditions. Together with additional soil parameters we predicted how well harvesters could travel, how much soil sticks to the beet and how much soil compaction is caused by the harvest vehicles. The DST was developed for planning purposes for the British Sugar Agriculture team.
It is also being tested in other areas (Spain) where difficult harvest conditions have meant harvest planning is critical to ensuring continued supply of beet to the processing factories.