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Actively Managing Nurse Crops in Sugarbeets (05/25/17)

Sugarbeet growers routinely plant cereals as a companion crop to reduce sugarbeet injury from blowing soil and wind.

Actively Managing Nurse Crops in Sugarbeets

Sugarbeet growers routinely plant cereals as a companion crop to reduce sugarbeet injury from blowing soil and wind. Nurse crops must be actively managed since spring growing conditions often benefit cereal crops and create a mat of high albedo reflection (light reflection from surface) that may rob heat units from slower growing sugarbeet seedlings. Cover crops also produce a very heavy below ground root mass, analogous to an ‘iceberg’ in ocean waters, that is competing with the sugarbeet plant for moisture and nutrients.

Research conducted at Prosper, ND in 2015 and at Foxhome and Murdock, MN and Prosper, ND in 2016 indicates nurse crops should be terminated at the 4 to 5 leaf stage or when they begin to tiller. Delay in terminating cover crops until first visible node (jointing) reduced extractable sugar per acre by 560 lbs and 400 lbs in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Cover crops will continue to protect sugarbeet seedlings from wind or blowing soil even after they have been terminated with herbicide. That is, the carcasses from dead cereal grasses will protect the sugarbeet seedling several weeks or until the sugarbeet plant is able to tolerate wind and blowing soil.

 

Tom Peters

Extension Sugarbeet Agronomist

NDSU & U of MN

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