Ten key components for higher sugarbeet quality – Tip #3

Optimum plant population is one of the 10 key components to improve sugarbeet quality.

Achieving optimum plant population with uniform stands is the foundation in establishing the potential for high yield and quality of sugarbeets. When populations are thin, yield and quality will suffer. Research conducted by Tim Harrigan, agricultural engineer for Michigan State University Extension, indicates that optimum sugarbeet weight for best quality is 1.5 to 2.5 pounds. His research indicated that as sugarbeets became larger, quality was reduced. Sugarbeets that are less than 1.5 pounds may have issues due to being too small to get into the harvester.

Uniform stands of sugarbeets are also important when it comes to defoliation. Uneven stands will often cause what we call “big beet-little beet syndrome.” With thin or uneven stands, a sugarbeet will compensate and grow larger as in-row spacing increases. If in-row seed spacing is poor by two plants being too close together, a dominate sugarbeet will often overshadow the other sugarbeet. In either case, topping or scalping becomes more difficult. Poorly defoliated sugarbeets will lower Clear Juice Purity (CJP) and reduce long-term beet storability.

A poor stand of sugarbeets can reduce sucrose by as much as 2.5 percentage points. Many factors can affect your stand establishment, including variety, crusting, planting depth, seedling disease, insects and a host of other maladies. Research has shown that seedling emergence in Michigan is generally between 60 to 75 percent. The Research Education Advisory Council (REACh) recommends a final stand of 175 to 225 sugarbeets per 100 feet in both narrow and wide rows. In 30-inch rows, 200 sugarbeets would be 35,000 plants per acre, and in 22-inch rows that would equal 48,000 plants per acre. Most growers in Michigan are targeting seed spacing at planting between 4 to 4.5 inches to achieve the desired plant population.

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