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Effects Of Fall And Spring Nitrogen Application On Sugarbeet Root Yield And Sugar Content


August 7, 2019 | View PDF

No-till sugarbeets on-farm trial near Culbertson. (Photo submitted)

Adequate nitrogen is essential for optimum growth and development of sugarbeets and is known to be the most important nutrient in sugarbeet production. However, excessive uptake of nitrogen can stimulate excessive canopy growth and reduce sugar content in sugarbeet roots. To combat this issue, researchers at the Montana State University Eastern Agricultural Research Center, Dr.Chengci Chen, Superintendent and Cropping Systems Agronomist, and Dr.Apurba Sutradhar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, have been conducting studies on the effects spring and fall nitrogen have on sugarbeet sugar content and root yield.

"Nitrogen loss is an increasing concern for the environment, and there are many factors that contribute to nitrogen loss. One of the major factors is nitrogen application timing. Farmers consider the weather and the number of days when deciding the appropriate time to apply nitrogen and unfortunately time is often limited in the spring for fieldwork," explained Sutradhar.

Chen and Sutradhar are comparing two application timings, The first set of trials are applying nitrogen after harvest and the second set of trials is applying nitrogen in the spring before seeding. These trials are being performed in an effort to determine which management system maximizes farm profit by minimizing nitrogen loss and promoting environmental sustainability.

"Under no-till and conventional tillage systems, we are comparing the effect of fall and spring nitrogen application with multiple rates on sugarbeet root yield and sugar content. In addition to soil-applied nitrogen, we are also applying foliar magnesium and zinc to evaluate if these two nutrients have any effect on the roots and sugar concentration," said Chen.

The benefit of no-till farming is it requires less off-farm inputs compared to conventional tillage systems. "The expected outcome is sugarbeet yield and quality will not be compromised by converting to the no-till sugarbeet production system, and thereby farmers can save a significant amount of money by reducing off-farm inputs and farm operations," explained Sutradhar.

No-till system promotes soil health by reducing surface crusting and sealing; it also enhances infiltration and decreases water runoff due to irrigation. "Our sugarbeet fertility trial is under the irrigated system. We have set up a soil moisture monitoring system to determine how tillage and nitrogen management affect soil moisture retention and infiltration, especially after irrigation and rainfall events."

In addition to no-till, Chen and Sutradhar are also conducting a seed treatment study, where they are evaluating multiple commercial products marketed by the company, Talc U.S.A. to increase sugarbeet yield, plant health, and sugar content. "These products should provide farmers with a micronutrient boost, enhance plant's defense mechanism, increase soil microbial activity, microbial nitrogen-fixing, and phosphorus mobilization," said Sutradhar.

Chen and Sutradhar explained that this is an ongoing project that has proved to be so far, successful. "We have a good stand of sugarbeet on both conventional tillage and no-till sides. We are taking measurements at this point, and data is yet to be analyzed," stated Chen. 

In summary, the ultimate goal of Chen and Sutradhar's research on nitrogen management is to provide useful information to assist farmers in making timely management decisions on soil fertility and water application for profitable sugarbeet production in the MonDak region.


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