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Best Management Practices for Highest Returns in Late Planted Sugarbeet

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This page was adapted from the article, "Best Management Practices for Highest Returns in Late Planted Sugarbeet" which appeared in Crop & Pest Report on May 26, 2022.

Select your best fields for sugarbeet with highest preference going to a previous crop of wheat. Ensure there is proper drainage or else the environment will be favorable for soil-borne diseases later in the season. Prepare a friable, weed-free seedbed and fertilize in the fall or spring based on a soil test. If fertilizing in spring, please note 130 pounds of total N is required for those sampling to 4 feet and 100 pounds of total N for sampling to 2 feet. Ensure that a minimum amount of 65 pounds N per acre is present to optimize early growth.

Select seed varieties with high recoverable sucrose potential that is suitable for your production area. When ordering seeds, make sure seeds are treated with fungicides such as Kabina, Systiva and Vibrance that will give protection against Rhizoctonia damping-off. Add a seed treatment of Tachigaren (hymexazol) which is an inexpensive insurance against Aphanomyces damping-off. Most seeds include insecticidal seed treatments that will control common insect pests such as sugarbeet root maggot and wireworms. Fields in an area with a history of sugarbeet root maggot will also need a granular insecticide at planting as well as protection just before peak fly activity.

Plant seeds about 4½ to 4 5/8 inches apart to get about 175 to 200 evenly spaced plants per 100 ft of 22 inch rows; plant closer in 30 inch rows.  Adequate soil moisture should help increase percent germination and emergence from an average of 68% to 72 to 75% that will help to utilize N and moisture to improve final sugar content of the crop.

Weed control options are somewhat limited in sugarbeet, so a grower must be careful and strategic. Since all growers use crop rotation, it is recommended to use herbicides that are more available in rotating crops such as wheat, corn and soybean to control herbicide resistant weeds. Start weed control early – start with a weed free seed bed, use a pre-emergent or soil incorporated herbicide where possible. For post emergent herbicide applications, start when weeds are small and continue until row closure. If necessary, use mechanical weed control and/or labor to keep the weed seed population as low as possible.

Select varieties that will perform well in fields with a known cropping history. For fields with a history of Rhizoctonia, use a Rhizoctonia resistant variety and apply fungicides such as azoxystrobin as early as possible in the season to provide adequate protection. After row-closure, fields should be scouted for Cercospora leaf spot (CLS) since the population of the causal agent, Cercospora beticola, is very high. Apply fungicide mixtures starting at first symptoms or when the disease is first reported in the factory district. It is best to mix fungicides with two modes of action and apply in 20 gallons of water per acre at 14 day intervals in dry conditions and at 10 to 12 day intervals during wet conditions. The crop should be protected from CLS until harvest starting in October. By following best management practices, growers will get the highest yields possible with a high sugar content.