ISSUE #408

408 - Realize Full Crop Potential Using Proper Harvest Techniques


Efficient processing of sugarbeets is greatly improved if the crop is harvested and stored properly prior to factory processing. Objectives of proper harvesting include: (1) reducing field harvest losses; (2) reducing root dirt tare; (3) complete removal of leaf and petiole material; (4) delivery of frost free roots to storage piles and (5) placing beets in storage at root temperatures of 55 degrees F. or less. Careful harvesting, proper beet storage, and efficient processing are complexly interrelated operations. American Crystal sugarbeet growers who own the processing factories economically benefit by recognizing this fact.

Proper Defoliation For Profit

Proper defoliation is worth $5, $10, $20 and up to $50 per acre or more to American Crystal shareholders. A study conducted in 1987 by Tom Zidon, Sr. Agriculturist, American Crystal, shows the benefits of proper scalping. Beets were dug by hand and 3 inches of petioles were left on the beets. The beets were then cut in half lengthwise and with one of the beet halves topped by hand to the first leaf scar. The samples were analyzed in the quality lab and the results (using 22 cents/lb. for sugar) are as follows (Table 1): 

Table 1. Scalped vs. Green - 1987
Tom Zidon, American Crystal Sugar Company
 % Sugar% SLMEstimated Gross $/s Per Ton
Scalped 17.59 1.63 $36.35
Greens Remaining 16.49 1.70 $31.20
Difference 1.10 -0.07 $5.15

A difference of $5.15/ton on a 20 ton crop is over $100/acre! This compares the optimum to the absolute worst but it does show the value of proper defoliation. Just one poorly defoliated beet in ten could cost you $10/acre! Just one poorly defoliated beet in 100 causes a $1.00/A loss.


Nitrogen Fertilizer Requirement for PIK Sugarbeets

The sugarbeet PIK program of 2000 raised questions relative to the need for additional nitrogen fertilizer on these unharvested acres for the 2001 crop year. A nitrogen trial was conducted at Crookston on PIK acres that showed a slight yellowing as compared to an adjacent area in the field that was not in the PIK program on May 31. The beet crop yielded 21.5 T/A with a 19.5% sugar content with well yellowed tops.

The field was planted to Nor-Pro wheat on May 3, 2001. Fertilizer nitrogen plus that remaining after the sugarbeet crop totaled 133 lb/A of available N. On May 31, a topdress application of 0, 30, 60 and 90 lb/A of nitrogen, as urea, was applied. Two hours after application, sufficient rainfall occurred to minimize ammonia volatilization from urea.

Results of the top-dress nitrogen on wheat yield and other agronomic factors are shown in Table 2.

Treatment (lb/A topdress N)Total N (lb/A)Yield (bu/A)Protein (%)Test Wt (lbs)Lodging (1-9)*
Check 133 67.5 13.68 58.4 1.25
30 166 68.0 14.13 57.6 1.38
60 196 68.3 14.55 57.0 2.38
90 223 65.8 15.00 55.9 5.00
Stat Sign   NS ** ** **
LSD   --- 0.38 0.83 0.53
  • Topdress N did not effect wheat yield
  • Topdress N increased grain protein
  • Topdress N lowered test weight
  • Topdress N increased lodging

PIK Field Management Suggestions

  • Till the crop under ASAP to reduce N tie-up
  • Use satellite imagery for N credits for crops after 2001 beets.
  • Fall soil sampling of PIK beet fields is not recommended
  • Plant soybeans/dry beans on PIK fields in 2002
  • No more than 30 lb/A extra N might be required for small grains on PIK acres

Production Practice Survey

Please return the Production Practice survey to Dr. Dexter ASAP. Information provided is very useful to North Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association and American Crystal Sugar Company. You can do the survey on your computer on our website in the shareholder information section.