Sugarbeet growers are on a search this time of year – for the best sugarbeet varieties to plant during the upcoming season. During seed purchasing season, sugarbeet growers have a lot to consider before making a final decision.
"Selecting the correct variety is essential in raising a solid sugarbeet crop," says Doug Ruppal, sugarbeet crop specialist with Syngenta. "Growers need to select varieties not only on performance, but on their own personal needs, such as soil types, past history, disease factors and rotation schedule. It will also define a field's maintenance program for the next growing season."
Racehorse or workhorse?
It seems obvious that growers should select a variety that delivers high yield and sugar content, but those varieties aren't always the right choice for every grower. Ruppal explained that it is difficult to find a high-yielding, high-sugar variety that also contains multiple disease-tolerant traits.
Ultimately, varieties are placed into two unofficial categories by some in the industry: racehorse varieties and workhorse varieties. Racehorse varieties tend to result in higher yields and sugar content while workhorse varieties feature broader, more effective disease tolerance packages. Although racehorse varieties may have attractive yield and sugar data from cooperatives' official variety trials (OVTs), Ruppal warned that those statistics are the result of a controlled environment that removes factors of disease and insects.
Matching the variety to the field
Growers can start their search for next year's crop by examining results and data from their cooperative's OVTs. Trials report attributes of interest, including yield data, recoverable sugar, sugar loss to molasses and disease tolerance ratings. Each cooperative's field agents, university extension specialists, seed agents and other farmers can also help growers narrow down potential variety choices.
In addition to outside data and recommendations, experts advise growers to thoroughly evaluate their own fields. "Growers are always evaluating fields from a yield and quality standpoint, but one of the primary characteristics growers need to monitor is disease prevalence, especially Rhizoctonia and Fusarium. Sugarbeets are known to fall prey to quite a few diseases," says Bill Gilbert, solutions development manager, Syngenta. "Growers may also want to take soil samples and test nitrogen levels, which in excess can suppress sugarbeet quality."
First line of defense against disease
With sugarbeet production occurring from Washington to Michigan, weather and soil conditions vary but disease concerns remain constant. Drawing conclusions based on field and rotation history can help foreshadow threatening diseases and pests.