Beet growers can cut spray costs

Published online: Jan 13, 2015
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FARGO, N.D.—Sugarbeet farmers in the region face lower profitability in 2015 than they did in the previous few years, and science is trying to help them save money while keeping production high.

Mohamed Khan, a North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota Extension Service sugarbeet specialist based in Fargo, N.D., is among experts organizing the annual Sugar Beet Research Reporting event on Jan. 13 in Fargo. The event attracts industry officials, certified crop advisers and farmers.

This year’s presentations will involve state researchers from Minnesota, Montana and Texas, as well as U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers from North Dakota, Montana, Colorado and California.

Khan will be talking about how farmers can control yield-robbing Cercospora leaf spot and Rhizoctonia, while still producing good yields.

“Growers in the past have done a phenomenal job at controlling leaf spot, and now they can draw down on their investments in keeping the population of the fungus low,” he says.

Khan expects more farmers will be making more spray decisions based on scouting symptoms and advice from coop- eratives.

“They can reduce their applications by one or two times per summer,” Khan says. An average fungicide spraying is roughly $20 an acre. If one spray was cut across the entire 650,000 acres in the American Crystal Sugar Co. and Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative region, it could save up to $13 million — without losing any yield.

“Farmers could keep that money in their pockets,” he says.

Khan says farmers farther south tend to spray more for diseases. In the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative area near Renville, Minn., beet farmers spray about three to five times per summer, on average. In the Minn-Dak area, it’s 2.5 to three times per season and American Crystal growers spray an average of 2.2 times. Farmers growing for Sidney Sugars Inc. in eastern Montana spray about two or three times a year.