Once a new sugar beet variety has been developed, seed production begins. The seed is multiplied where the climate and soil guarantee the optimum quality.
We multiply our monogerm sugar beet seed in the Po Valley near Bologna in northern Italy or in a region of South West France. The mild climate and good soil give excellent conditions for harvesting the best quality seed.
The multiplication of sugar beet seed is unlike any other agricultural crop and takes about 12 months.
The basic seed is sown in August and develops into seedlings. By February, these are ready for transplantation into the propagation fields. Here they are allowed to bolt and will start to flower in late May.
Flowering continues until mid June. During the next month, the seed will develop and grow.
Once a week, our experienced field technicians inspect all the propagation fields and advise the farmers on every aspect of caring for the seed crop.
Approximately one month after flowering, the seed is almost mature.
New techniques allow us to measure the seed maturity and choose the right time for cutting.
Some 4 days after cutting, the seed is mature and ready for harvest.
Choosing the right moment to harvest is crucial to the seed quality. Harvest too early and the result is poorer seed quality and slower germination. On the other hand, a late harvest will reduce seed yield due to shedding of the seed.
After harvest in southern Europe, thousands of tonnes of seed are transported to our factory in Denmark each year.
Here the seed is transformed into the familiar pellet, having special properties and qualities.
But first, we carefully analyse each and every grower lot.
When we know the quality of each grower lot, we can start to clean it, polish it and calibrate it.
The polishing removes any surplus cork from the outer surface and the agents that inhibit germination.
The secret is to remove as much cork as possible without damaging the seed. This is very delicate work and a good outcome depends on the skill and experience of our technicians and their knowledge of the raw material.
We then use various methods to calibrate the seed. We select the most mature, healthy seed and discard the immature, empty or damaged seed.
Once calibrated, the seed is pelleted. Pelleting makes the seed rounder and more uniform, so it is the right size and shape for the sowing machine.
But there is more to the pellet than just the eye can see. Our innovative pelleting process turns the seed into a technically advanced multi-layer pellet with unique properties.
This new type of pellet consists of several layers, each having a different function.
The outer layer ensures that after sowing, the pellet will take up and retain the correct amount of water required to initiate germination.
The inner layer ensures that this water is released to the pellet at the optimum rate.
In other words, the multi-layer pellet ensures optimum germination under both wet and dry conditions in the field.
After pelleting, we apply plant protection products to the pellet and then coat it with a protective green film.
The characteristic green MARIBO colour makes it easier for the grower to locate the seed in the soil and check the sowing depth.
We constantly check that the correct amount of plant protection products have been evenly applied to the individual pellets. Under-dosing would not provide adequate protection from pests, whereas over-dosing could reduce the speed of germination.
The quality of the seed is checked in several ways during the entire process.
Germination ability and vigour are checked after every step and we carry out a series of different quality tests checking, for example, resistance to bolting, the size, strength and roundness of the pellet and the moisture content of the seed.
Ultimately, only 10 – 20% of the seed originally harvested will pass our stringent testing procedures and reach the farmer.
Finally, the Danish authorities certify the seed in accordance with international quality standards.