The soluble nitrogen (N) components in sugar beet seriously impair sugar recovery. The only N component determined routinely in the sugar factory is amino N (the sum of amino acids in the beet), which is assumed to reflect all the other N components. Amino N is affected by N supply and variety, but only little is known about the other N components such as total soluble N, betaine and nitrate. This study aimed at investigating the effect of N supply on the N composition of sugar beet varieties with special emphasis on N supply by variety interactions. In 2001 and 2002, field trials with four varieties and four N treatments were carried out at six sites in Germany. Storage root yield and the concentrations of sucrose, sodium, amino N, betaine, nitrate and total soluble N in the beet were determined. With increasing N supply, the concentration of amino N increased considerably and that of nitrate slightly, whereas that of betaine remained rather constant. Thus, the N composition of sugar beet changed with increasing N supply and the percentage of amino N of total soluble N increased. Although amino N has the closest correlation with total soluble N, for quality assessment it may overestimate the effect of N supply on other N components. Varieties clearly differed in root yield and quality as well as in all N components. The variety with the lowest amino N had the highest betaine concentration. However, as related to the concentration of total soluble N in the beet, for all varieties amino N as well as betaine showed the same response pattern. This indicates that the N composition of sugar beet is determined by the level of total soluble N, irrespective of variety or N supply. All varieties required the same N supply for obtaining maximum yield or quality. N supply did not affect the ranking of the varieties for all parameters studied, consequently it need not be considered for variety choice.
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