Sugar beet breeding

The MARIBO sugar beet breeding facility and factory are located on the island Lolland in the South eastern part of Denmark.

Every year, new breeding work is carried out using thousands of isolation tents and cabins. Here the parent lines are grown - plants that are specially selected by the breeders for having the most desirable characteristics for the new generation of sugar beet seed.

The most important parameters we select for are sugar yield, disease resistance, low soil tare and resistance to bolting.

All of today’s sugar beet varieties are hybrids. This means that the seed drilled by the grower has been harvested from pollen sterile mother plants that have been fertilised by pollen producing father plants.

We constantly focus on the growth and development of the mother seed plant as this can greatly influence the quality of the seed we harvest from it.

The genetic make-up and the health of the seed plant are crucial for the development of the sugar beet seed – its shape, size and weight – but also its vigour.

So, we constantly check the seed yield, seed vigour, seed size and uniformity of maturity.

All the parameters influencing seed quality are carefully recorded and the overall result determines whether a mother plant will be selected for the production of future generations of sugar beet varieties. 

Tests in trial fields
Seed obtained from the new crosses is tested in trial fields and the results are compared against existing commercial varieties. The development of the new plants in the field is monitored and recorded.

Once the roots have been harvested, we then measure the soil tare. The roots are washed and notes are made on their shape and the size of the root groove and the clean weights are recorded. Finally we analyse the sugar content and juice quality in the laboratory.

After 10 – 15 years of testing several thousand crosses in a huge number of trials, only the most promising candidates remain.

These are then tested in yield trials in several countries and finally the very best are ready for multiplication and production on a large scale.