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)
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
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 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.
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.
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.
- Sugarbeet Production Guide - EC156
- Soil Test Nebraska - This site will allow you to calculate fertilizer recommendations for all crops produced in Nebraska, either by directly entering crop and soil test information, or by uploading files with test information from analytical laboratories.
- Nutrient Management for Agronomic Crops in Nebraska, EC155: Chapter 17 – Sugar Beets - A guide to nutrient use from all sources for the production of Nebraska's major agronomic crops. Content in this 176-page book is divided into two main areas: the basic principles of soil fertility for the primary, secondary and micronutrients and fertilizer recommendations for individual crops.
- Guidelines for Soil Sampling, G1740 - Soil samples representative of a field are the best guidelines to determine fertilizer needs. This publication describes proper procedures to collect representative soil samples.
- Management Strategies to Reduce the Rate of Soil Acidification, G1503 - Soil acidification is a gradual process that results from long-term intensive crop production. The rate of this process depends on soil type and management practices. Management practices that reduce the rate of soil acidification are discussed.
- Using a Chlorophyll Meter to Improve N Management, G1632 - This NebGuide describes how to use a chlorophyll meter as a tool to improve nitrogen management by detecting nitrogren deficiency and determining the need for additional N fertilizer.
- 10 Easy Ways to Boost Profit $20/Acre, EC196 - A compilation of 22 fact sheets, each of which describes how a change in farming practice can increase profits by a minimum of $2 per practice. Topics range from management strategies for inputs and pests to tillage and irrigation.
- Agricultural Phosphorus Management and Water Quality Protection in the Midwest: A Heartland Regional Water Coordination Publication, RP187 - A resource for nutrient management planners on the risk of phosphorus delivery to surface waters, assessment of this risk, and management options to reduce this risk; targeted to U.S. EPA Region 7 comprised of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.