News International Sugar Journal

Belgium –  SESVanderHave opens high-tech €20 million sugar beet breeding centre

One of the leading sugar beet seed producers SESVanderHave inaugurated a new €20 million plant breeding research centre in Tienen, Belgium on 6th September. The inauguration of the ‘SESVanderHave Innovation Centre (SVIC) was witnessed by 220 invited guests from 15 countries along with Willy Borsus, Belgium’s Federal Agriculture Minister, local mayor Katrien Partyka, President of Florimond Desprez (which owns SESVanderHave) Francois Desprez and the CEO of SESVanderHave Rob Van Tetering.

The SVIC boasts some 13,000 m2 of glasshouse and almost 2000 m2 for supporting laboratories. Individual units in the glasshouse can be independently climate controlled supported by robust automation systems. Dr. Gerhard Steinrücken, Director R & D said that “the automation of various processes [will greatly assist with exploiting] innovative biotechnology methods [through which] we can completely dissect the DNA of the sugar beet to do targeted research.”

In his opening remarks, Van Tetering stressed that the company is confident about the future of the beet sugar sector in Europe particularly as regards competitiveness against cane. As for SVIC, he said, the centre will doubtless support its aim to be the “leader in sugar beet breeding” introducing herbicide resistant and multiple resistant cultivars in the market place.

Prior to the official “ribbon cutting”, the delegates were treated to two excellent presentations on progress in plant breeding and its impact. Helene Lucas from INRA (the French Institute of Agricultural Research) set the scene on how understanding of genetics and development of techniques have supported plant breeding which has seen beet sugar yields increase from 2 tonnes/ha in 1870s to over 16 tonnes today. Garlich von Essen from European Seed Association highlighted wide ranging benefits that have been accrued from introduction of productive cultivars. These includes generation of some €7000 additional income for 1.2 million farmworkers since 2000, reductions in CO2 emissions by over 3.4 billion tonnes and contribution of more than €14 billion to EU GDP.