Partnering with Growers

Published online: Nov 06, 2019 New Products, News
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This article appears in the November/December 2019 issue of Sugar Producer.

ACH Seeds Crystal sugarbeet seed is the brand that many U.S. sugarbeet growers prefer. From early roots in the American Crystal growing region to its steady and stable growth over the last 20 years, many growers have come to know the benefits of planting Crystal brand hybrids.

The Crystal brand is recognized for strong field performance and high sugar. Did you know that ACH Seeds is equally recognized for its commitment and relationships with sugarbeet growers? ACH’s approach is rooted in common sense and common ground: Offer yield-strengthening defensive traits that protect high levels of recoverable sugar and combine that with sales representatives committed to on-farm success.

Developing hybrids to meet the rigorous challenges in today’s production fields is not an easy task. A new hybrid typically requires 10 years of development and testing before approval to plant in commercial sugarbeet production fields. The process is meticulous and labor-intensive, but worth all the effort because it all ultimately improves productivity and drives sustainability in our industry.

The breeding process starts with an assessment by the ACH sales teams of the current market conditions: Which diseases are currently challenging growers the most; are there strain-breaking diseases starting to show up that will impact future needs; how should these challenges be prioritized and in which markets? Through this process, the research, breeding and sales teams determine a plan for variety development in each region. Some diseases require more emphasis on genetic tolerance in the production management strategy rather than fungicides and cultural practices. For example, Cercospora leafspot in the eastern markets is more challenging since climactic and environmental conditions change from year to year. A wet, warm year creates ideal conditions for development of Cercospora, making it more difficult—or even impossible—to control with just fungicides.

In the western regions, a similar environmental challenge exits with powdery mildew. In years with low relative humidity and wide fluctuations between daytime and nighttime temperatures, the pathogen thrives and producers must rely more on variety tolerance. Taking these factors into account is essential in maintaining crop health and vitality.

Once a variety development direction is determined, ACH plant breeders start identifying traits that protect the plants from multiple pests and diseases with the goal of no compromise on yield or overall productivity. Through the ACH breeding program, the best traits are identified using the latest cutting-edge technology such as genetic markers. Next, the desired traits are introduced into existing elite parents with hand-crossing programs resulting in the new combinations that are intended to address challenges growers face in their commercial fields. The new hybrids produced are then evaluated in trials to measure the success of each combination.

This process of identifying traits, producing desirable results in parents, and testing for the presence of the new traits takes up to five years. Once successful hybrid candidates have been selected, pre-commercial seed production begins, and varieties are entered into the Official Variety Trials of each sugar company. Typically, varieties can meet limited approval status after two years of testing and full approval in three years if they meet specific requirements. It is not uncommon for only 25 percent of new entries to advance, so it is certainly challenging to gain approval. The entire process can take up to 10 years, with average duration eight to nine years. As the sugarbeet is a biennial crop, ACH has created and developed methods to decrease the development time, such as utilizing warmer production climates to increase the speed of growth and the use of transplanted stecklings that can decrease development time by two years.

The end goal is to always help growers maximize productivity on their farms by offering the best sugarbeet genetics, superior seed quality and excellent service from a collaborative partner. When growers can manage the crop and be blessed with good weather, their productivity remains high and the potential for a high sugar crop is within their sights.

If you’re a grower outside of the American Crystal market who has planted a Crystal brand variety and have seen great results, contact your local sales agent, or visit www.achseeds.com to enroll in ACH’s Sugar Bounty program to be recognized for your superior sugar production.