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.
Sugarbeet quality was reduced in 2016 because of Cercospora leafspot, excess nitrogen and extended warm fall.
Michigan Sugarbeet growers experienced the lowest sugar content since 1986. Multiple factors are involved when it comes to a sugarbeet plant producing and storing sugar. In fact research has found that maximizing beet quality (% Sugar) and recoverable sugar per acre (RWSA) involves more than a dozen controllable factors. To complicate matters, uncontrollable factors also cause beets to react to differing environmental situations each year. These will include: the amount of rainfall, temperature, length of growing season along with disease inoculum level. The interaction of all of these factors will result in varying degrees of impact on yield and quality.
Paul Horny, Longtime Farm Manager of Michigan’s Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center, Talks About His Work & the Center’s Sugarbeet Role
The farm on which Paul Horny worked from 1984 to 2009 was less than a 15-minute drive from his home. That changed five years ago. The farm moved – and Horny’s daily commute stretched into more than 45 minutes each way. But he’s just fine with that.
Those 25 years were invested as farm manager of the 120-acre Saginaw Valley Bean and Beet Research Farm. Established by Michigan State University in 1971 and situated just a few miles west of Saginaw, the farm property was actually owned by the state’s sugarbeet and dry bean industry groups. For many years, it served as the primary location for MSU research on those two crops.
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