ISSUE #466

466 Nitrogen Management for High On-Farm Profit


Nitrogen management has been a focus of American Crystal Sugar Company growers and the Agriculture Department for over 25 years. No other aspect of sugarbeet production has been evaluated more in university research. Most recent university recommendation changes were made in 2001. Keep in mind that these recommendations are of necessity for 750,000 acres of beets in seven factory districts in Minnesota and North Dakota. Growers, agriculturists and crop consultants must then work together to make minor adjustments to get N rates correct for every field sugarbeets are raised on.

Factors Influencing N Management:

  1. Soil test values
  2. Soil type
  3. Planting Date
  4. Harvest date
  5. Soil organic matter and mineralization
  6. Headlands versus rest of field
  7. Variety selection, RSA vs. RST
  8. Weather if you can predict it
  9. Previous crop history for each field

The American Crystal Sugar Company grower practices database identifies the main soil series for each quarter section of the growing region. This allows us to track yield and quality versus nitrogen available to the crop versus soil type. Table 1 and 2 show this data for the period 2000-2004 for the two main soil types found in the Red River Valley. A summary of crop yield and quality versus available nitrogen for each soil group can be reviewed at in the Shareholder Information area. Keep in mind that soil type is just one of the factors influencing nitrogen management programs. Table 1 data indicates that lower N availability produces equal RSA to higher N rates. Consider using less N, saving fertilizer dollars and improving quality while maintaining yields on these lighter textured soils. Typical soils in this group would be Glyndon or Wheatville loams and similar ones. Don't make changes on the abnormal weather of 2004.

Table 1. Soils on Glacial Lake Plains (Loams-Silt Loams) 00-04

Total N 0-4ft# of FieldsYieldSugar %SLM %Rec Sugar Per TonRec Sugar Per Acre
 0-90 235 20.2 17.82 1.32 330 6666
91-110  855 19.9 17.87 1.29 332 6607
111-130  5105 19.8 17.86 1.23 333 6593
131-150  4070 20.1 17.84 1.25 332 6673
151 >  2557 20.3 17.62 1.40 324 6577

Crop production data for heavier soil types is shown in table 2. Its not uncommon to require 131-150 lbs/Acre total N to maximize yields on these soils and yet maintain very good crop quality. Soils typical of this group would be Fargo, Hegne, Ryan and Northcote. When adjusting N management try only 10 to 15 lb/Acre changes in any given year.

Table 2. Soils on Glacial Lake Plains (Heavy Clays) 2000-2004

Total N 0-4ft# of FieldsYieldSugar %SLM %Rec Sugar Per TonRec Sugar Per Acre
0-90 62 18.0 18.13 1.29 337 6066
91-110 270 19.0 18.16 1.25 338 6422
111-130 2863 18.8 18.04 1.23 336 6317
131-150 2369 19.4 18.03 1.25 336 6518
151 > 1192 19.4 17.89 1.36 331 6421

More N Information:

For more information on fertilizing sugarbeets go to and look at numerous articles in the fertility management section of each report. The most recent university recommendation changes can be found on pages 174-177 of the 2001 Sugarbeet Research and Extension Reports.