2Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of Agriculture, Laboratory of Agronomy, 541 24 Thessaloniki, Hellas, Greece
3Hellenic Sugar Industry SA, Agronomic Research Service, 574 00 Sindos, Hellas, Greece
Defoliation produced by abiotic factors and the subsequent re-growth can reduce sugar beet (Betavulgaris L.) sucrose content and final sugar yield. Field experiments were conducted during 2003 and 2004 growing seasons in the farm of Hellenic Sugar Industry SA, Larissa factory, central Greece. Three sugar beet cultivars (Rival, Europa and Corsica) were ordinary irrigated till the beginning of July and then left without irrigation for a month. Three defoliation levels (control-C, moderate-MD and severe-SD) were performed at early August and irrigation was simultaneously started to promote re-growth. Four samplings were conducted (before defoliation, 15, 30 and 40 days after defoliation) to determine the changes in physiological and productive traits. Yields were lower in 2003 compared to 2004 because sugar beets were grown under more stressful conditions due to the delayed sowing, the higher temperatures and the lower rainfall. Both defoliation level and cultivar had significant effects on physiological and productive traits after re-growth only in 2003. The late-season cultivar, Corsica, showed better LAI maintenance compared to Europa and Corsica and had the greatest performance after re-growth in regard to fresh root weight and sugar yield. Also, this cultivar showed the least decrease of sucrose percentage in fresh root weight and juice purity mainly due to the stable potassium (K) concentration and limited increase of sodium (Na) accumulation in roots. Corsica consumed the least root α-amino N for its re-growth. Quantitative and qualitative traits were negatively affected only by the SD treatment. Plants suffered from MD treatment gradually recovered during growing season. This study demonstrates that under Mediterranean conditions, the adverse effects of re-growth on sugar beet yield and quality depend on the growing conditions and they can be restricted by the selection of an appropriate cultivar.