North Dakota Association of Agriculture Extension Agents



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2016 Crop Production

2016 State Winner

Transformational education resulted in over 30% increase in sugarbeet yield

North Dakota State University Extension Service

Mohamed Khan, John Kringler, Michael Knudson, and Bradley Brummond


Sugarbeet is one of the most important crops in North Dakota and Minnesota with total economic activities calculated at over $4 billion. The most important limiting factor were damping-off of seedlings and crown and root rot of older plants caused by the fungal pathogen, Rhizoctonia solani and leaf spot caused by Cercospora beticola. Over the past three years, research and education was focused on developing research based recommendations to manage these diseases and then conducting a transformational education program to facilitate growers to adopt recommended practices. Research demonstrated that the use of penthiopyrad as a seed treatment followed by a timely application of azoxystrobin effectively controlled R. solani. The use of fungicides starting at first symptoms with subsequent applications at 14 day intervals based on the presence of symptoms and favorable environmental conditions effectively controlled C. beticola. Extension specialist and County Agents conducted and evaluated programs using different teaching methods which were most appropriate for the activity to educate growers. Reporting sessions, seminars and workshops were used to educate and train educators and growers on how to identify and manage R. solani and C. beticola. Production guides and bulletins with recommendations were made available as hard copies and electronically for producers. Annual radio program on major stations provided ‘Growing tips’ which addressed specific issues in a timely manner. Annual surveys and direct electronic responses indicated that growers rapidly adopted research based recommendations which resulted in yield increase of 36-50% and annual savings of over $16 million in crop protection costs.

Educational Objectives

Extension specialist and County Agents from Cass, Grand Forks and Walsh Counties conduct extension programs for sugarbeet growers. Growers will know how to identify and economically manage diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani and Cercospora beticola after attending a seminar, workshop or plot tour arranged by the educators.

Program Activities

Face-to-face meetings with growers’ representatives to determine the major issues to be addressed; greenhouse, laboratory and field research to develop practical and economical solutions; field days using plot demonstrations to illustrate the strategies and treatments which were effective at controlling Rhizoctonia solani and Cercospora beticola; conducting winter seminars which included topics on managing Rhizoctonia and Cercospora; organize and participate in the International Sugarbeet Institute where producers attend to get information on which products are available and their costs in managing major diseases of sugar beet; and participating in the annual research reporting sessions where researchers indicate their progress in managing R. solani and C. beticola.

Teaching Methods

A variety of teaching methods were used in dissemination of research based information. Formal lectures at seminars using power-point presentations and handouts; availability of research based recommendations on the web-site ( sponsored by growers; bulletins which provided concise information on identifying and managing R. solani and Cercospora leaf spot were made available in hard-copy and online; timely radio programs on the major radio stations which coincided to onset of the diseases and when some treatments were possible and which was always available on the internet; oral reports provided at the research reporting sessions; workshops which provided hand’s on training on identifying different diseases; plot research demonstrations with adequate and timely notice provided to all growers and other educators; and an annual hardcopy and electronically available ‘Sugarbeet Production Guide’ which provides recommendations on all production practices for sugarbeet.


All growers (100%) contribute to a grower check-off to fund their sugarbeet research and education program. About 65% of all sugarbeet growers participate in the sugarbeet educational programs and they rate the program a 4.5 on a 1 to 5 scale where 1 is considered poor and 5 is considered excellent for providing relevant and useful information for producers. In 2015, 85% of survey respondents indicated good or excellent control of Cercospora leafspot and 86% of growers were using a seed treatment to help control R. solani.

Impact Statement

Impact statements were developed to highlight the economic impact of effectively controlling Cercospora leaf spot and the rate of adoption of a new fungicide seed treatment which was research based recommendations. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents reported good or excellent control of R. solani with fungicides and 96 to 100% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the seed treatment used for early season control of R. solani. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents reported good or excellent control of Cercospora leaf spot with fungicides. The 2015 sugarbeet crop was 30% to 45% higher in yield for the northern Red River Valley and southern Minnesota, respectively, compared to yields in 2006.


Annual surveys are provided electronically for growers. In addition, growers use personal response devices to provide direct feedback to a questionnaire at annual growers’ seminars held in all the major sugarbeet producing areas in North Dakota and Minnesota. Information requested include county of sugarbeet production, major problems, list of practices adopted, evaluation of practices used, and cost savings of practices adopted.

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