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Plant Populations for Highest Sugarbeet Yield and Quality (05/10/18)

Yield, row spacing, timing and other questions answered for sugarbeets

Plant Populations for Highest Sugarbeet Yield and Quality

What is the recommended plant population to get the highest yield in sugarbeet?

Researchers at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that a wide range of plant population (100 to 300 plants per 100 ft of row) with uniformly spaced plants resulted in high tonnage and recoverable sucrose. Plant populations of 175 to 200 plants per 100 foot of 22-inch wide rows consistently resulted in the highest recoverable sucrose per acre. It is critical that the plants be evenly spaced within the rows. It is recommended that growers plant to have higher populations (4.5 to 4.75 inch seed spacing to get 200 plants after emergence) to cater for any reduction in population from wind, insects, diseases etc.

Do all growers in Minnesota and North Dakota use 22 inch rows?

No. We have a small percent of growers with 30 inch rows to facilitate use of machinery and equipment for several row crops. We have not conducted research on 30 inch rows; however, data from sugar cooperatives indicate that growers with 30 inch rows should strive for at least 225 plants per 100 foot of row for highest tonnage and sucrose concentration.

What should a grower do if he has 75 to 100 plants per 100 foot of row?

If planting was done early, populations of 75 to 100 evenly spaced plants per 100 ft of 22 inch rows will produce higher yields with larger beets than higher plant populations planted three or more weeks later in similar growing conditions.  It is highly recommend that the growers visit the field with his/her agriculturist to determine whether replanting is necessary. The grower should consider whether the variety of seed suitable for his field is available, whether conditions are favorable for timely replanting, germination and emergence, as well as crop insurance. Any replanting of sugarbeet because of lower than ideal stands should be carefully considered.

When is the best time to plant sugarbeet?

One of the important factors for high sugarbeet yields is to plant as early as is practical taking into consideration the possibility for a frost in May. Most growers aim to get their sugarbeet planting done from around April 12 through early May based on field conditions. Wet field conditions have delayed planting in most areas in 2018. However, growers in the Red River Valley have made significant progress with about 80% of sugarbeet planting completed and hoping to be done by this weekend (May 12). Growers in southern Minnesota, adversely affected with a late season snow storm, have made slower progress. If field conditions are favorable, growers in the southern region should complete planting by May 19. It should be noted that planting into seedbeds with warm soil and adequate moisture will have rapid and uniform emergence (in as little as 5- 7 days).

Is there any practice you will recommend to protect sugarbeet seedlings?

Yes - The use of cover crops such as oats, barley and wheat help to prevent reduction in plant stand from high winds, reduce soil erosion and also help to conserve moisture after the cover-crop is killed-off with herbicide. I encourage growers to use cover crops especially in fields that are known to have a history of ‘blowing’ during high wind events that is common in spring.

Any closing comments for growers?

In areas where beets have emerged, growers should proactively, scout fields for weeds and take necessary weed control measures to avoid competition of the sugarbeet crop with weeds.

Mohamed Khan

Professor and Extension Sugarbeet Specialist

NDSU & U of MN


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