Good soil management practices can create the critical balance of plant nutrients essential to maximizing high quality sugar beet yields in the High Plains. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the most yield-affecting nutrients for sugarbeet.

The complete Fertilizing Sugarbeet section of the Extension Publication – Sugarbeet Production Guide, EC156, is available on-line. (PDF 536KB, 6 pages)

UNL Sugarbeet Production guide

Soil Testing

The first step in soil management is to characterize the amount of nutrients in the soil before planting through soil testing. A good soil test will show producers where nutrient are imbalanced. Then fertilizers can be applied based on the soil test results to ensure optimal nutritional conditions for the crop.

See a detailed description of how to collect soil samples

Nitrogen Recommendations

Proper nitrogen nutrition in sugarbeet production is crucial as it is the most limiting nutrient. Lack of nitrogen will result in significant reductions in root yields, while too much nitrogen will promote significant decreases in sucrose content of the root and excessive leaf growth. Each ton of harvestable sugarbeet require about nine pounds of nitrogen that is obtained from residual nitrogen within the soil, or from organic matter during the growing season (mineralization), or it can be applied as fertilizer. All three of these sources need to be considered when assessing the needs of the crop in relation to the expected yield.

This section offers additional information, including:

  • Formulas to calculate nitrogen fertilizer recommendations;
  • Nitrogen fertilizer recommendation examples;
  • An overview of types of nitrogen fertilizer and recommended uses for each type;
  • A guide to adjusting nitrogen recommendations.

Phosphorus Recommendations

Phosphorus is usually the second most limiting nutrient in sugarbeet production. Leaves of phosphorus-deficient plants will appear darker green than usual and can progress to stunting the plant’s growth. Phosphorus deficiencies will most likely be associated with soils that are high in pH and low in organic matter (eroded knolls under sprinkler irrigation systems and areas of intensive land leveling under gravity irrigation systems). Phosphate fertilization is not necessary in many instances, but should be soil tested because it is an essential nutrient to sugarbeet production.

Potassium Recommendations

About 95 percent of soils in the High Plains are expected to have adequate levels of potassium for maximum sugarbeet production. Proper potassium levels ensure plants can make use of available water. Early symptoms of potassium deficiency include a tanning and leathering of edges of recently matured leaves. More sever deficiency symptoms are a severe interveinal leaf scorch and crinkling that proceeds to the midrib.

Micronutrient Recommendations

Micronutrients applied to sugarbeet rarely increased yields or sugar content in experiments conducted over several years. Visual diagnosis of micronutrient deficiencies in sugarbeet is difficult because the symptoms are quite different. Plant tissue or petiole analysis is required in most instances to positively identify the nutrient that is deficient. Zinc has increased yields in a few experiments where tests indicated low soil zinc content.

This section of the Sugarbeet Production Guide – EC156 was prepared by Jurg M. Blumenthal.

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Soils

CropWatch: Soil Management

Soils and soil management recommendations