Establishment techniques

  • Fodder beet is a specialist crop which is more difficult and expensive to grow than other forage
  • Fodder beet can produce high DM yields, but yields vary With good establishment techniques and management it can produce 30t DM/ha, with typical yields of 18- 24t DM/ha. In summer dry situations yields are lower.


Pre sowing

Fodder beet is sown at a very low sowing rate compared to other forage crops, so a fine, firm, moist, and weed free seedbed is essential for optimal germination. Fodder beet is particularly vulnerable to dry conditions and competition from weeds during establishment. A good way to reduce this risk is to use the ‘stale seedbed’ technique whereby the seedbed is prepared 4-6 weeks before sowing.

To achieve a stale seedbed, spray out the selected paddock(s) with a mix of glyphosate and a contact insecticide (e.g. Lorsban 50EC), ideally 6 weeks before planting. This will give time to implement a double spray programme and retains the soil moisture.

Paddocks are typically ploughed to bury existing plant material and to break up any compaction or sub-soil pans, then surface cultivated to produce a fine, firm seedbed. A second non residual weed spray (e.g. glyphosate) can then be applied just prior to sowing, or included in the pre-emergent application just after sowing.


Sowing date

This is location and season dependent, but in general October to late November is recommended, once soil temperatures are consistently above 10oC. Sowing too early (< 10oC) can result in uneven germination, making spray timings difficult. It can also risk vernalisation, where the plants will be triggered to flower prematurely in late summer, known as 'bolting'. Later sowing may jeopardize germination rate (due to lack of soil moisture) and shortens the growing season, so reducing yield potential.


Precision sowing

A precision planter is recommended for sowing fodder beet, so book contractors well in advance. Precision sowing ensures that seeds are planted with appropriate spacing’s, enabling each bulb to grow to its potential.

Seed should be sown 15- 20 mm deep, with rows typically 500 mm apart and 250 mm between plants in the rows (depending on sowing rate and planter row spacing). The drilling speed needs to be slow (5 kph)

to ensure accurate seed placement. How the crop is to be fed should determine the planting layout. Refer to page 193 for more detail.


Fodder beet is normally sown at 80,000 seeds/ha for grazing, or 100,000 seeds/ha for lifting. This higher rate will restrict bulb size producing a more uniform crop which is easier to harvest.

Rolling the paddock immediately after drilling with a Cambridge roller can help to maximise the seed:soil contact giving a more even germination, and increasing the effectiveness of the pre-emergent herbicide.




Weed/pest control

As fodder beet is sown at a very low plant population, and seedlings are slow to establish, the crop is very susceptible to competition from weeds during establishment. The stale seedbed method will get the crop off to a good start, however it alone rarely provides enough weed control.

The first weed spraying is typically pre-emergent, applied immediately after sowing.

An insecticide can also be incorporated. This should be followed by selective post- emergent herbicides as required until the crop reaches canopy closure. Seek professional advice on chemical choice, rates and timing.

Fodder beet is very resistant to most brassica pests, except for Nysius, slugs and springtails which are typically found around the time of drilling. See page 171, 131 and 170 for more information on control of these.



A fodder beet crop will always have a small population of plants which flower prematurely (known as bolters). These bolters should be pulled out of the crop during January or February before they drop seed in the paddock. If left uncontrolled, bolters will each drop up to 1500 seeds which can survive in the soil for many years, and germinate as the soil is disturbed. These areas can become thick with weed beet in future years, and will depress future crop yields. The level of bolters can be reduced by not sowing fodder beet too early.