New Weapon Against Crop Disease

Published online: Mar 27, 2014
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Paul Rutherford has a new weapon to fight a relentless enemy.

This spring, for the first time, Rutherford and other area sugarbeet growers will be able to use the Kabina seed treatment. Kabina is considered an affordable, convenient and effective way to combat rhizoctonia in sugarbeets.

“We’re hoping this will help,” says Rutherford, a Euclid, Minn., farmer and president of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Rhizoctonia, a crop disease that can hammer both yields and quality in beets, has in recent years been the biggest production problem for sugarbeet farmers in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. The Red River Valley is the nation’s leading sugarbeet producing area.

Rutherford says there have been years in which rhizoctonia has cut his beet yields by 25 percent.

Rhizoctonia is a serious problem throughout American Crystal Sugar Co.’s production area, says Tyler Grove, ag strategy development manager for the Moorhead, Minn.-based cooperative.

The extent of the damage can vary greatly from one field to another, and even within the same field, he and others say.

The disease causes sugarbeet roots to rot, hurting the plants’ ability to take in moisture and other nutrients. Kabina helps the plant set up a healthy root system, which is crucial for sugarbeets, officials say.

Several advantages

In the past, area beet growers generally tried to protect beet seeds from rhizoctonia infection by applying fungicide to the soil when they put down fertilizer.

Kabina, in contrast, can be applied directly to the seed to protect it from infection, says Jason Brantner, a University of Minnesota plant pathologist who works with sugar beets.

Rutherford estimates that Kabina will cost about $11 or $12 per acre, with fungicide protection costing about $18 per acre.

Those savings are particularly important given low sugar prices and tight margins, Rutherford says.

Using Kabina also should be more convenient than applying fungicide with fertilizer, he says.

Growers need to properly time the application of fungicide to get maximum value from it. That won’t be the case with Kabina, which already is on the seed when it’s put in the soil, Rutherford and others say.

EPA approval

Kabina is expected to provide three to five weeks of protection to seeds. Growers who use it may need to follow up with post-emergent herbicide in sugarbeet fields with moderate to severe rhizoctonia potential, officials say.

Kabina promises to be both affordable and effective, says Mohamed Khan, extension sugarbeet specialist for North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last year that it had approved the use of Kabina with sugarbeets.

Kabina’s effect on sugarbeets has been researched for several years, says Brantner, who’s been involved in the research.

Rhizoctonia also is a threat to crops such as corn, soybeans, dry beans and potatoes that area farmers often grow in rotation with sugarbeets, Grove says.

The disease isn’t a concern with wheat and other small grains. The rising popularity of corn and soybeans, however, has cut into the amount of wheat planted by area sugarbeet farmers, Grove and others say.

Wet, damp spring and wet soils bolster the disease, but it can be a big concern even when those conditions don’t occur, officials say.

Sugarbeet industry officials say the arrival of a product such as Kabina is rare.

“Sugarbeets are a specialty crop. We don’t get a lot of crop protection products introduced into our world. So we’re pretty pleased that Kabina is available,” Grove says. “It’s very welcome.”