2014 Michigan sugarbeet production practices

Survey results of Michigan sugarbeet growers attending winter agronomy meetings indicate they have quickly adopted new production practices.

A production survey was conducted at five educational agronomy programs in 2014 held for Michigan sugarbeet growers. Nearly 200 growers provided input. These programs present recent research information conducted by Michigan Sugar agronomists and researchers and Michigan State University Extension Sugarbeet Advancement. The research and educational content covers a variety of topics to improve quality, management and profitability of the sugarbeet crop. Each year, this survey is conducted at the meetings to evaluate grower’s adoption of management practices. Growers that responded to the survey represented 54,200 acres or about one-third of the sugarbeet acres in Michigan.

A significant amount of research and education has been focused on controlling Rhizoctonia root rot. This disease has been a chronic disease that not only reduces tonnage, but also sugar content. Research has shown that timely Quadris applications are very effective in controlling the disease. The survey indicated that 94 percent of the growers are using Quadris for controlling Rhizoctonia. About 51 percent are applying two applications, in a T-band in-furrow plus six to eight leaf stage. Research has shown that a narrow in-furrow T-band (3-5 inches) and reduced rate is as effective as the full rate in-furrow with a 7-inch band. The survey indicated 86 percent of growers are using the narrow T-bands.

Nitrogen (N) management is extremely important for optimum sugarbeet growth and quality. Too much nitrogen will reduce quality and too little will reduce tonnage. The survey indicated that nitrogen use rates have increased from the previous year. Research has shown N rates should be about 160 pounds per acre following high residue crops such as corn. Growers reported 43 percent are applying 126-150 pounds per acre and 32 percent are applying 151-171 pounds per acre. When following a low residue crop, rates should be about 125 pounds per acre. The survey indicated 30 percent of growers are applying about 100-125 pounds per acre and 41 percent are applying 126-150 pounds per acre. The majority of growers are in the recommended nitrogen range.

If left unchecked, Cercospora leaf spot will greatly reduce yield and sugar content in sugarbeets. The survey indicated that 84 percent of the growers are using BEETcast to help time fungicide applications. To help minimize fungicide resistance, tank-mixing different modes of action is recommended. The survey indicated 59 percent of growers are always tank-mixing and additionally 19 percent are mixing more than half the time. Only 7 percent of growers were not tank-mixing at all. The survey indicated the largest deterrent to tank-mixing was poor mixability of added products.

To improve resistance management, growers need to incorporate a new mode of action in their spray program. The survey also indicated tht about 27 percent of growers used Super Tin in 2014 and another 16 percent are planning to use it in 2015. Use of Tin products has increased in the last three years. Overall, leaf spot was held in check in 2014 with 60 percent spraying three times and 13 percent with four or more applications.

Growers also reported 72 percent of them are always practicing glyphosate weed resistance management (utilizing traditional herbicides) when growing corn and soybeans. Another 17 percent of them are using this management practice more than half the time. Only 7 percent said they use glyphosate alone. Weed herbicide resistance is a growing concern in the Michigan sugarbeet industry.

Michigan Sugar Cooperative has put a strong emphasis and invested heavily in agronomic research and education. This has paid good dividends to the Michigan industry with an average yield increase of 0.5 tons per year since 1997. We also have the highest quality beets of any production area in the United States. Attending educational programs regularly allows the Michigan and Ontario growers to be extremely competitive with other growing areas. Growers that attended last year’s programs indicated 93 percent intended to incorporate information from the meetings into their beet production practices. A total of 92 percent felt that attending the educational programs would have a positive economic impact on their farming operation.

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