SUGAR BEET MECHANICAL PROPERTIES AT DIFFERENT TEMPERATURES AND CELL TURGORS
Damaged beet store less well. Stronger beets damage less – it takes more force to rupture cells. Softer beets probably also experience less damage for a given impact – they can distribute the force of an impact over a larger area and time. It seems reasonable to assume beets with a low turgor pressure are softer (we have some weak evidence of this) and thus less prone to damage. Temperature, I’m less sure about there being any relationship here, but it would be good to discount it.
Given these factors are going to be most important at harvest time, it would be great if we could assess them in field. This is however, very difficult – controlling turgor would be difficult, temperature impossible, and I don’t know how to measure stiffness in the field (maybe a force deformation/ micro deformation test or an acoustic sonic impulse). Strength, yes. Stiffness, no.
This suggests to me that a greenhouse trial would be good. Grow the right amount of beets in pots, then near to harvest, water/ dehydrate, cool/ heat. This way, it would be possible to do analysis of the mechanical properties using laboratory equipment too.
The minimum would be: 1 variety, high verses low turgor, 30 samples per treatment. So, 60 beets.
Ideal would be more like: 3 varieties (low, med and high strength), 3 turgor levels (dry last 20 days, normal last 20 days, wet last 20 days), probably two temperatures (8 degrees, 15 degrees), but probably still 30 samples per treatment. So, 540 usable beets – that’s a couple of days work in the lab…
Likely: 2 varieties, three turgor levels, 30 samples. 180 beets.
If we were to use a laboratory penetrometer, I think we’d have to grow in sand, just to ensure clean samples.
ASAP. Not top of the priority list, but if I could do it this year, I would.
No idea. What does greenhouse space cost? No external labour needed (maybe one day at harvest, to, for example, clean the samples before they go on the penetrometer), but we’d need to find a high end penetrometer that can also measure stiffness.
WHY THIS MIGHT NOT HAPPEN:
Funding, availability of equipment.
As a student project, this would be a serious project (30 points, I’d guess).