ISSUE #434

434 - Stand Establishment Challenges?


Weather patterns this winter are similar to those of 2002 in many ways. Fields have been open nearly all winter; soil has been blowing and filling in field and roadside ditches. Surface soils are becoming almost "flour like" in the top 2 or 3 inches due to repeated wetting, drying, freezing and thawing. Such conditions (1) make it very difficult to prepare that ideal seedbed, (2) pre-dispose fields to stand loss from high winds after emergence and (3) will continue to spread diseases like rhizomania to new fields in 2003.

Planting Date/Plant Population Control Sugarbeet Profitability:

Model Farm analysis of the American Crystal Sugar Company grower practices database suggests that planting date and plant population control over 50% of our year-to-year yield variability. Figure 1 shows the average growing days for the 1998, 1999, and 2001 growing seasons. Most of the '98 crop had more than 160 growing days and a final yield of 22.2 T/A. The 2001 crop had an average of about 140 growing days or less and only a 17.8 T/Acre yield. The 1999 crop had about half the crop planted early and half planted late with an average yield of 19.9 T/A. Revenue per acre from early planted acres in 1999 was more than $200/acre greater than late planted acres.


Cover Crop Use Is Stand Establishment Insurance:

  • For soil types and fields prone to blowing
  • Seed cover crop with a press drill immediately before beets
  • Plant barley at ½ to 1 bu./acre
  • Control barley over the row by the 3-leaf stage
  • Control barley between rows by the 5-leaf stage
  • Leave grass herbicide out of early M-R
  • Must band spray M-R's


The seed spacing selected by American Crystal Sugar Company shareholders over the last 5 years is shown in figure 2. About 75% of American Crystal Sugar Company acres are planted with a 5.0 to 6.0 inch seed spacing each year. Q. Will these seed spacing choices result in optimum plant populations for maximum revenue per acre? A. No, not unless germination and emergence are exceptional and stand loss after emergence is minimal (see table 1).

Table 1. Seeding Rate and Plant Establishment (22" rows)

Plant EstablishmentSeed Spacing (Inches)
90 360 270 216 180*
80 320 240 192* 160
70 280 210 168 140
60 240 180* 144 120
50 200* 150 120 100

* Estimated plant population to maximize on-farm profit

Consider the following example when choosing a seed spacing for each field on your farm. Model farm data indicates a plant population of 175 to 190 beets/100' of row is required to maximize on-farm revenue.

5 Inch Seed Spacing and Stand Loss:

99% Seed Drop 237
95% Germination 226
70% Emergence 158
5% Loss After Emergence 150

* A 5 inch spacing is 240 seeds/100' of row.

Planter Size and Timely Planting:

Many growers are purchasing larger planters to be certain they can plant as efficiently as possible. Minnesota and North Dakota weather extremes each spring make timely planting a real challenge. The NDSU/U of MN 2002 survey indicates 58% of growers use 12-row planters, 10% use 18-row planters and 30% use 24-row planters. Do you have enough planter capacity?