ISSUE #406

406 - Best Management Practices For 2002


Harvest of the 2001 crop has not started but NOW is the time to put best management practices for fertilizer use in place for the 2002 crop. Nitrogen available to the crop is the single biggest factor determining yield and quality next year. Talk to your agriculturist, fertilizer dealer and carefully plan your fertility program for 2002.

$$ - Soil Testing Pays - $$

A successful N management program for sugarbeet begins with soil testing to determine what is in the soil. Then add the right amount of fertilizer to meet crop needs. Table 1 shows the benefit of soil testing and accurate fertilization. Soil tested fields produced 912 lbs./acre more recoverable sugar than non-tested fields.

Table 1. Effect of soil testing on sugarbeet yield and Quality - ACS Grower Practice Records Summary, 1998-2000.

Soil TestingTons/AcreSugar %SLM %Recoverable Sugar
Yes 21.2 17.62 1.42 324 6,869
No 18.5 17.55 1.47 322 5,957

Soil Sampling Strategy

  • Samples fields immediately after small grain harvest
  • Follow sampling date adjustments if sampling before September 15
  • Delay sampling after broadleaf crops until after September 15
  • Use topo maps, yield maps or satellite imagery from when the field was last in beets to establish management zones to sample for 2002 beets
  • Variable rate apply nitrogen for best yield and quality
  • Sample all fields to 4' in depth

Fields Managed By Precision Ag Farming Practices Yield Better

The three-year averages from ACS Grower Practice Records shows higher yields from fields with zone sampling (Table 2). Yield increases of 205 and 444 lbs. of recoverable sugar per acre were observed for zone and topography based soil sampling programs and variable rate fertilizer application.

Table 2. Effect of soil sampling strategy on sugarbeet yield and quality, ACS Grower Practice Data, 1998-2000.

Soil TestingTons/AcreSugar %SLM %Recoverable Sugar
Conventional 21.2 17.62 1.42 324 6,869
Zone - Imagery 21.7 17.66 1.38 326 7,074
Zone - Topography 21.7 18.12 1.28 337 7,313

Grower Idea Contest:

Now is the time to collect the information and photos to document your great ideas from 2001. Your agriculturist has entry forms for the 2001 contest

Harvest Data Available Every 3 to 6 Hours

Many shareholders took advantage of the opportunity to access their truck weight and quality data on the Internet on a daily basis last year. Your truck scale weights are made available every three hours. Quality Lab data is made available every 6 hours each day. Shareholders can use the data in many ways including (1) monitoring individual truck turnaround times (2) avoiding overloading trucks (3) tracking quality within and between fields (4) comparing tare between harvesters (5) keeping track of custom hauler performance (6) and many other things.

Agriculturists have put together a straightforward presentation on the steps to follow to access your harvest data from the Internet. Go to and click on agronomy, go to the "What's New" area denoted by red arrows. Click on "Internet Access to Delivery and Contract Records". Review this presentation and access your records. If you need help contact your agriculturist or Ag Office Coordinator.

Fertilizer Outlook For 2002

What will be the cost and availability of fertilizer nitrogen for 2002? The following article is by Dr. Dave Franzen, NDSU, Extension Soil Scientist. This fertilizer outlook forecast explains how the situation looks today. For the entire article go to the NDSU Pest Report link on the Internet at

The Fertilizer Situation, 2001-2002

There is certainly a lot of time before planting season in 2002 and much can affect the fertilizer industry positively or negatively during that time. However, given the anxiety level of farmers and industry people last year over supply and prices, it might be good to reflect on what has been and look forward to this coming crop nutrient application year.

There was no question early in the fall of 2000 that gas prices were somewhat higher along with anhydrous ammonia prices than they had been in the recent past. In November of 2000, gas prices in the US began to rise drastically, peaking somewhere around $10/million metric BTU (MMB) in January. Since natural gas prices are the single most important input in anhydrous ammonia production, the cost of ammonia is linked to gas directly. The cost of making a ton of ammonia shot up well past $300/ton.

As a result, two things happened. First, Ammonia plants closed, reducing domestic production to less than 50% capacity for a period of time in January/February 2001. Secondly, imports poured in. Our imports of ammonia in 2000/2001 were double 1999-2000.

That brings us to today. Gas prices are down to $2.50-$3.00/MMB, which means that North American ammonia production is still about $100/ton higher in cost than foreign competitors. US crops are extremely dependent on N fertilizer. It is discomforting to think that most of our N requirements might come from the Mid-East and Asia in the coming years.

Ammonia pricing for this next year is forecast in the high $200's/ton in the mid-west as opposed to the mid $300's last spring.