NEW PRODUCTS NEW SUGAR BEET SAID TO RESIST HERBICIDES

NEW PRODUCTS NEW SUGAR BEET SAID TO RESIST HERBICIDES

A Belgian laboratory has developed a sugar beet that resists herbicides, claiming it will represent major savings for the sugar industry.

Plant Genetic Systems, No. 1 in Europe in biotechnology applied to agriculture, announced what it claimed a breakthrough in one of Europe's major crops. Plant Genetic Systems has already developed tobacco, potato and tomato plants that can resist herbicides and insecticides.Sugar beet plantations cover close to 2 million hectares (5 million acres) in Europe, PGS spokesmen said.

The cost of beet seeds is 7.5 billion francs ($214 million), they said, and that of herbicides between two and three times higher.

PGS spokesmen explained the high cost of herbicides by the need to kill weeds without damaging the beet.

Special costly weed killers thus have to be used, whose spraying is furthermore sophisticated.

The laboratory said the beet's resistance to herbicides will enable farmers to use less, better and cheaper herbicides, instead of specific weed killers.

PGS experts said their next step would be the development of herbicide- resi stant cereals, corn, cotton and soybeans.