A comprehensive recap of Michigan Sugar Company's 2017 sugarbeet growing season.
By Jim Ruhlman
BAY CITY, Mich. - Michigan Sugar Company’s 2017 crop got off to a slow start with much of the planting taking place in late April and early May. Late April rains caused some significant crusting which affected stands in some areas of the growing region. The crop matured nicely through May and mid-June, but very heavy rains in late June proved to be too much for 15% of the crop. While very few acres were abandoned, root disease took its toll on the affected acres.
Fast forward to late August and the entire month of September and our entire crop was desperate for rainfall. The drought-like conditions during this timeframe were too much for our crop to produce abundant yields. Our average grower sugar came in at a healthy 18.5%, but our yield was a disappointing 25.5 tons per acre average. Cercospora Leafspot continues to be a big threat to the sugarbeet crop in Michigan, but growers did a fantastic job in controlling the disease through timely and frequent applications of fungicide.
Rhizoctonia root rot is a serious disease problem in several sugarbeet-growing regions, with the result sometimes being dramatic — and expensive — reductions in tonnage and quality. Low levels of infection can easily cause yield losses in excess of a ton per acre, while high infection levels can cut yields by more than 10 tons per acre. The quality of surviving beets can also be impacted, sometimes resulting in significant losses in recoverable sugar.
Michigan Sugar Company has a goal to improve beet quality by increasing the co-op’s average sugar content to 19%. This goal is achievable, but it will take increased management and use of higher sugar varieties.
Many of our new varieties have a high tonnage and sugar potential; but several likewise are very susceptible to Cercospora leafspot and Rhizoctonia. Left unchecked, both diseases can greatly affect yield and quality. By using the BeetCast leafspot prediction model and appropriate fungicides, growers are doing an excellent job of minimizing the impact of Cercospora leafspot. While Rhizoctonia is more difficult to manage, we also have made great strides in reducing its effect on yield and quality