Stale seedbed planting for sugarbeets has increased dramatically with the adoption of Round-Up Ready sugarbeet varieties. It is estimated up to 20% of the Michigan sugarbeet acres are planted this way. Advantages of stale seedbed planting can include retention of soil moisture, improved seed soil contact, earlier planting of fields and less spring soil compaction. A disadvantage is soil temperature may be slower to warm in the spring. Sugarbeet Advancement has seen successful stale seedbed planting in all soil types when soil is properly prepared in the fall and planted correctly in the spring.
Most stale seedbed planting is currently following a previous crop of soybeans, dry beans or wheat. After harvest, fields need to be chisel plowed or ripped and worked with a secondary tillage tool that will remove the undulations and level the soil. Some soil clods will remain, but these will be minimized with winter freezing or thawing and removed with planter residue removers. If a cover crop such as wheat is wanted, it is suggested to be broadcast after the first secondary tillage then lightly tilled again.
We have seen successful stale seedbed planting under a variety of soil conditions including planting into a crust and dense soil surface conditions. The key to success is the proper planter setup and ability to maintain down pressure. Planters should be equipped with residue removers that will remove any clods or residue, undulations and tickle the crust as needed. Adjustment of the residue removers will vary between fields based on soil types, crusting and field moisture conditions.
Consistent seed depth placement into moisture is very important for good emergence. Growers that have been most successful pay particular attention to this, making adjustments from field to field to achieve proper planting depths. Depth changes as little as a quarter of an inch can cause erratic emergence from seed being in and out of moisture. Planters that can monitor down pressure have a definite advantage when looking at consistent depth. A slower planting speed will also be beneficial.
Stale seedbed planting of sugarbeets is a viable option for growers to consider. If new to stale seedbed planting, growers may want to learn from experienced growers. For 2012, experiment with one field to figure out what adjustments work to achieve the best emergence.