Michigan sugarbeet industry partners look toward the future

Published online: Feb 19, 2014
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LANSING, Mich.-Agronomists and agribusiness leaders involved in Michigan's sugarbeet industry gathered Jan. 29 to review current issues facing sugar beet production and strategies for the future. The meeting was part of the Michigan Agri-Business Association's 81st annual winter conference.

"Growers and agribusinesses know that the best way to grow the bottom line is to be on the same page, and work together to address production challenges." said MABA President Jim Byrum. "We had a great turnout at today's meeting and that demonstrates a real sense of optimism about Michigan's sugarbeet industry."

Five industry experts reviewed a range of upcoming issues during the meeting:

* Mark Girard, Michigan District Manager for Syngenta, noted that as sugarbeet growers embrace the latest technology to grow a higher-quality, higher-value product, the industry faces a need to educate customers on the importance of advancements in agricultural technology. He also reviewed diseases that impact sugar beet producers and encouraged agronomists to work with growers on field inspection and vigilance to prevent the spread of disease.

* Paul Pfenninger, Vice President of the Michigan Sugar Beet Cooperative, discussed the rapidly growing sugarbeet industry in the state-which provides nearly 12 percent of beet sugar in the United States-and emphasized the potential for even more growth. Michigan Sugar works with more than 1,000 Michigan farm families, and the 2012 Michigan sugarbeet crop alone generated more than $600 million in economic benefits for the state.

* Ben Wilson, Agronomic Service Representative for Syngenta, provided an in-depth review of currently available fungicides. Wilson reviewed best practices and strategies for industry and sugar beet growers, providing agronomists with updated information and tools to employ with growers and ultimately increase yields.

* Dan Armbruster, Sales Agronomist with the Cooperative Elevator Company focused on relating the latest science to sugar beet growers, taking into account current grower concerns in a time of increasing market uncertainty. He emphasized the need among today's growers to ensure that their operation uses safe, effective practices on their fields, and encouraged company and private agronomists to work collaboratively with sugar beet producers to meet those goals.

* Greg Clark, an agronomist with Michigan Sugar Cooperative, provided a further analysis of cercospora and briefed attendees on recent work by Michigan State University to help combat the disease. He reviewed recent fungicide trials and outlined the biggest risks associated with fungicide resistance, encouraging agronomists and businesses to work with producers to prevent resistance.

Attendees closed the meeting with an open discussion of current issues and challenges in the beet sugar industry-including questions with Pfenninger, Clark, Dutch Seley of the Cooperative Elevator Company and Scott Dumaw of Crop Production Services.

"Let's remember what this industry does for our local communities," said meeting moderator Keith Martus of Star of the West Milling Company. "Beets are a big part of Michigan agriculture and it is everybody's job to make sure that we preserve that crop."

Source: www.farmersadvance.com