Sugarbeet field selection for early harvest

Criteria for selecting sugarbeet fields for early harvest should include potential for yield gain, disease issues and field drainage.

Early sugarbeet harvest in Michigan is scheduled to begin the week of September 12. Sugarbeets taken in at this time will be processed immediately and not permanently piled. Permanent piling of sugarbeets usually occurs when temperatures are favorable (cold) after October 15 and into November. This allows some fields to continue to grow for another 30 to 45 days. Recent research conducted by the Sugar Advancement program found that a healthy field averaged an increase in yield of one ton per acre per week during the fall. Research also indicates that diseased sugarbeet fields do not store well in permanent piles.

Sugarbeet fields that have a good stand and are healthy have the most to gain from later harvest. Sugarbeets that are diseased from Rhizoctonia rot root, Cercospora leaf spot, and cyst nematodes will not gain yield as much as a healthy field. In some cases, fields with heavy Rhizoctonia will actually reduce in yields and quality. It is also well-known that Rhizoctonia-infested sugarbeets do not store well in permanent piles. These beets can jeopardize long term storage in beet piles.

Heavy amounts of Cercospora leaf spot will also affect long term gain on yield and quality. Leaf spot infested sugarbeets will expend significant energy to re-grow new foliage at the expense of increasing tonnage and storing sugar. Petioles can remain attached and become more difficult to remove during defoliation. Poorly defoliated and Cercospora-infested beets also do not store well in permanent piles.

Sugarbeet cyst nematodes have been detected on about 25 percent of the sugarbeet fields in Michigan. Cysts can be easily detected on hair roots at this time of year. Fields that have cyst nematodes and were planted to a nematode-susceptible variety are also good candidates for early harvest. Nematodes will interfere with water and nutrient uptake, which will reduce yield gain.

Certainly other reasons exist for harvesting fields early, including tile drainage, field location and managing harvest labor.

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