Study Finds Sugar Beet Varieties React Equally to Nitrogen Applications
May 13, 2009
A study conducted by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and their cooperators has dispelled a belief among some sugar beet
growers that different sugar beet varieties require different nitrogen
In integrated farming systems, sugar beet growers harvest the root for cash
income and use the tops and root-processing byproducts for livestock feed. This
dual benefit works well, but the amount of nitrogen fertilizer required to
produce more tops decreases the amount of sugar in the root.
The contradicting objectives associated with this practice led some growers
to wonder if those who specialize in sugar production and those with integrated
farming systems need to employ different nitrogen fertilization practices, or
if certain sugar beet varieties lend themselves better to one management system
or the other.
In the study, ARS agronomist
Stevens, at the agency’s
Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Mont., and cooperators
from the University of Wyoming found there
are very minor differences in how eight sugar beet varieties commonly grown in
northern Wyoming and southern Montana respond to nitrogen fertilization.
Therefore, growers do not have to further complicate their
fertilizer-management decisions by adjusting nitrogen applications for
However, some varieties are designed to produce bigger tops at the expense
of sugar content, so growers should continue to choose appropriate varieties
based on their overall management objectives.
The study’s updated nitrogen-response information can improve
recommendations for sugar beet, regardless of the grower’s production
objectives or the variety being grown. Using the updated information tables
found in the study’s manuscript, which is published in the
Journal of Sugar Beet
Research, growers can increase the efficiency of fertilizer applied in
their operations, thereby improving net returns through increased sugar and/or
In addition, by reducing over-fertilization for top growth or the mistaken
belief that certain varieties require additional fertilization, growers can cut
their production costs even further and reduce potential environmental impacts
due to leaching.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.