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Vary sugarbeet planting rates with VR seeding

Variable-rate planting is becoming a fairly standard practice in corn. It’s a new concept in sugarbeets.

In variable-rate corn planting, you treat the better ground with more seed and poorer ground with less seed. In sugarbeets, you do the opposite.

American Crystal Sugar Co. has done several years of trials and has come to a general conclusion that for sugarbeets it is advantageous to plant lower populations in the best-producing ground and higher populations in the poorer-producing ground.

This concept follows the results that have been found in soybeans and, to some extent, in wheat.

Key Points

• Variable-rate seeding concept works in sugarbeets, too.

• With variable-rate seeding, you reduce planting rates on your best ground.

• Increase seeding rates on your poor ground to maximize yield potential.

Green zone

In sugarbeets, the green zone (see chart) is the “better” ground in the field and will respond better to “slightly lower” populations than normal: Typically plan on losing 5% at emergence and another 5% throughout the growing season. These areas have great soil health, typically higher organic matter and better mineralization throughout the season than other areas of the field.

Yellow zone

The yellow zone indicates your “average” ground in the field. It seems to respond well to “normal” populations: Expect to lose 5% to 10% at emergence and another 5% to 10% throughout the growing season. These areas of the field would represent more of a field/farm average production ground.

Red zone

The red zone is your “poorer” ground in the field. It seems to respond well to “higher” populations: Plan on typically losing 10% or more at emergence and another 10% or more throughout the growing season. These zones are often the low, wetter areas of the field that have poor soil structure, lower organic matter and often higher disease pressure.

The chart shows seeding rates that are generally suggested for the better, average and poor areas.

Sharpe is an agronomist with GK Technology Inc., Halstad. Contact Sharpe at 701-361-8199 or see


CALIBRATION: Variable-seeding rates for sugarbeets can be calibrated according to field zones. The red represents seeding rates for the poorer-quality areas of the field, the yellow is the average areas and the green is the most productive areas. The more productive the area, the less seed is needed to maximize profits. .
SOURCE: GK Technologies


CHANGE IT UP: Varying planting rates by soil productivity can improve sugarbeet profits.

This article published in the January, 2013 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2013.