The Roundup -

Beet Seeds Stand Trial


February 21, 2018 | View PDF

Strip trials show which beet seed is performing better under the same conditions, in the same soils.

Sugarbeet growers Tim and Adam Cayko of the Sugar Valley district conduct strip trials each year to determine which variety of beet seed works best in their heavy soils. In addition to cooperating with Sidney Sugars, Caykos do their own real world testing, some through strip trials. "The best fields are the ones with the least amount of work, where the seeds come up well and the ground doesn't crust," Tim said. "The digging is more weather dependent."

With two passes of each seed, side by side in the field, Caykos determine which variety is most disease resistant, drought tolerant and works best in different soil types. Planting the strips right next to each other highlights different leaf color and how healthy the plant is. Leaf growth is not always an accurate marker, but three root pulls during the growing season determine quality as well.

Stand counts are done for three weeks after emergence. Both growers and agriculturalists take lots of pictures and conduct day to day travels to document performance.

Trial beets are harvested and processed separately, either at the very beginning or very end of harvest. Harvest is usually completed in a day, using separate trucks for each variety to allow for the greatest accuracy.

Disease pressure is the main concern, especially after growing beets for years and years. Cercospera is always a concern, with rhizoctonia and aphanomyces relative newcomers to this area. Microscopic insects such as springtails and nematodes are also potential problems.

Growers like to compare results in each others' fields, particularly in similar soils. "I like to see what they did compared to what we did, with the same seed variety," Tim stated. "It helps determine how the seed did, and if it did well in both areas." More than just the seed variety will factor into the end result. Spraying, ridging and other practices matter. The strips are usually planted next to a road where passers-by can view the crop.

Caykos' rotation includes one year of beets to two years of spring wheat through their 500 acres. They crop beets on 200 acres each year and double crop as much as possible. Using 26" spacing, Caykos are in the minority, with most growers using 24" or 22". "The wider spacing lets us dig in the mud, and we can use bigger tires without moving beets. We like more room for spraying and every other application," Tim explained. Caykos plant a little tighter stand to make up for the lost acres, using 50,000 to 60,000 seeds per acre at 4" spacing in the rows. They find flood irrigation works better on their fields than pivots, with only one extra irrigation required last year during the drought. Their crop averaged 32.27 tons per acre with 17.97 sugar.

Adam is the 4th generation on land originally homesteaded by his great grandfather George and continued by his grandfather Andy. Sidney Sugars agriculturalist Kathryn Cayko praised them saying, "They do a really good job. They're one of our top growers." Tim is married to Rhonda; Adam and his wife Anna are expecting their first child in March.

Growers Tim, left, and Adam Cayko with agriculturalist Kathryn Cayko.

Sidney Sugars only conducts strip trials with two growers in each of their three districts at any given time. Agriculturalist James Johnson led strip trials on flood irrigated ground in the Savage district while Kathryn had growers in the Buford area for the first time. "They really liked doing it," she said. "They have different, heavier soils."

Sidney Sugars hosts a tour in mid August for all the growers with an opportunity to actually walk out in the crop and see how well it's growing. Seed reps are on hand to visit and tout their particular variety, and will use results from the strip trials in their future presentations.


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