Proper planter adjustment can improve sugarbeet stands

Sugarbeet seed placement and planter adjustment are key components to establishing excellent stands of sugarbeets.

Properly adjusted and well-maintained planters are key components in establishing excellent plant populations for sugarbeet production. A general recommendation is to establish a stand of at least 35,000 for 28 to 30 inches and 45,000 in 20- to 22-inch rows. This is equal to about 200 plants per 100 foot of row. Sugarbeet Advancement research indicates that for average emerging varieties, we would generally expect about a 60 to 70 percent emergence under normal conditions.

Planters should be inspected annually with special emphasis on seeding units. Plates should be snug, not warped, and the holes should be round. Plates that are warped or holes out of round should be discarded. Brushes and cut-offs should be aligned correctly. The seed knockout also needs to be in good working order. Make sure all seals are working properly; any vacuum leaks will affect planting. Be sure to match seed size with proper planting plates and utilize recommended vacuum pressure. Research conducted in 2011 showed that too high of plate pressure increased stands by 20 percent and doubled by 15 to 20 percent. Plate pressure that was too light lowered population by 18 percent and increased skips by 6 to 15 percent.

Sugarbeet seed is planted very shallow compared to other crops such as corn or soybeans. The average planting depth for sugar beet seed is about 1 inch. Planting depth variations of as little as a 0.25 inches can mean the difference of seed being placed into moisture or out. Planters will need to be adjusted from field to field and as soil conditions change. Stale seed bed planting has become popular and can vary in compactness between fields and soil types. Particular attention needs to be paid to planting depth and seed to soil contact. A research study conducted in 2011 on a very compact stale seedbed resulted in lower plant population when down pressure was to light.

In summary, establishing proper sugarbeet plant populations are important to maximize yield and quality. Growers will need to pay particular attention to planter maintenance, set-up and adjustment. Planting conditions can change greatly from field to field based on a variety of factors. The financial penalty for thin stands far outweighs any penalty for stands that are too thick.

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