A good understanding of the area’s soil profile and how sugarbeet plants use water throughout their growth cycles can help producers to better manage the limited water resources that are available. Poor irrigation management practices can waste valuable water resources, cause plant loss and soil degradation and increase input costs and pollution from allowing fertilizer and chemicals to leach into ground water supplies. The goal of water management should be to use available water resources as efficiently as possible while maintaining water quality for other uses.
The drawing below, from the Sugarbeet Production Guide, illustrates how water moves into, out of, and through the soil in a sugarbeet field:
The complete Irrigation Management section of the Extension Publication – Sugarbeet Production Guide, EC156 (PDF 2.66 MB, 18 pages) is available online. In addition to the drawing above, it contains many other helpful illustrations. The irrigation management section covers the following topics:
Soil Water Characteristics
Soil texture affects the water holding capacity of the ground. Understanding your soil texture, the soil profile and how irrigation water moves through it are key to developing an efficient irrigation plan. The challenge is to maintain levels between depletion from dry conditions and runoff and deep percolation from overwatering.
Sugarbeet Plant Characteristics
This section includes a description of how sugarbeets use water through transpiration and evaporation in relation to water’s location in the soil profile and at different stages in the growing season.
Sugarbeet Water Use
Sugarbeets generally use the most water, about .25 inches of water per day, from late July and early August. Day to day variation in crop water can be extreme, varying from 0.1 inch of water per day on cool days to 0.4 to 0.5 inches per day on hot days.
Early Season Water Management
Irrigation is critical during germination and early plant development. Improper irrigation at this time can have profound effects on the season’s crop as plants are unable to develop the strong root systems they need to use water efficiently throughout the season.
Late Season Water Management
Sugarbeet plants with fully developed root systems can manage with less water than plants that are still developing their roots. In late August and September water use is less critical to the health of the plant. Plant stress late in the growing season will have less impact on final yield than water stress that occurs early in the season.
Irrigating for Germination and Emergence
Irrigation for germination and emergence should be carefully weighed for cost-effectiveness given the current state of water supplies in the Central High Plains. Water supplies and their location in the soil profile greatly influence the condition of seedlings.
Furrow Irrigation Water Management
Compare furrow versus pivot irrigation in regard to labor and efficiency in sugarbeet production. This section also includes several tips to improve the efficiency of furrow irrigation, including surge irrigation methods.
Sprinkler Irrigation Water Management
Sprinkler irrigation can save labor and prove advantageous through by improving yields and conserving water. However, this method must be closely managed in regard to application rates and the levels the sugarbeet plants are losing moisture due to evapotranspiration.
Water Management Impact on Disease
Irrigation levels can indirectly affect the occurrence of Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew. Irrigation must also be carefully managed around prescribed fungicide treatments to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Walk through an example of checkbook scheduling, a popular method for planning irrigation. Learn how this method can be applied to both pivot and furrow irrigation.
This section of the Sugarbeet Production Guide – EC156 was prepared by C. Dean Yonts and Karen L. Palm.
- Sugarbeet Production Guide - EC156
- C. Dean Yonts, Associate Professor of Biological Systems Engineering
- UNL Water Center
- Economics of Sugarbeet Production
- Sugar Beets Roundup Ready ® , Canal Irrigated One Pass Tillage
- Sugar Beets Roundup Ready ® , Pivot Irrigated One Pass Tillage
- Plant Disease Central
- Irrigation Scheduling: Checkbook Method
- Water Optimizer – A Decision Support System for Agricultural Producers with Limited Irrigation Water