Will zone till work for sugarbeets in 22-inch rows?
Sponsored by UNL Extension and Western Sugar Cooperative
Will zone-tillage machines work for sugarbeets in narrower, 22-inch rows in heavy corn residue and wheat stubble? That was the question behind an on-farm demonstration in May 2010 in Box Butte County, NE, in which zone tillage machines from six manufacturers were operated in real-world conditions. Each machine was 12 rows wide with 22-inch row spacing. Couldn't make it to the field day? Just click to watch videotaped comments from manufacturers' representatives, local growers, Western Sugar Cooperative Agriculturalists, and John Smith, Machinery Systems Engineer.
Sugarbeet Production in Western Nebraska
Sugarbeet production begins with an extensive planning process for selection of production practices, field, and varieties, then progresses through field preparation and, planting, and ends with harvest. Production practices and related technology have dramatically changed within just the last several years to improve production efficiency, reduce input costs, increase yields, and improve soil and water conservation. The most dramatic and visual changes include Roundup Ready seed, tillage practices, auto steer, and weed control.
Successful sugarbeet production requires a good production plan, efficient execution and timeliness of field operations, and disciplined monitoring of the field and crop for irrigation, weeds, insect and diseases. Attention to these details results in maximum profitability.
Access the complete chapters of the Extension Publication – Sugarbeet Production Guide, EC156, by clicking on the chapter name:
• Chapter 5: Tillage and Seedbed Preparation
• Chapter 7: Planting
• Chapter 13: Sugarbeet Harvest
TILLAGE & SEEDBED PREPARATION
Tillage system or seedbed preparation is critical to maximize crop profitability. The tillage system critically influences the outcome of the crop in a number of ways beyond “jjust preparing for the planter:
- Seedling germination
- Soil water conservation
- Surface residue retention
- Weed control
- Planter performance
- Soil conservation
- Application of fertilizers and herbicides
Tillage Considerations: Less is Better
Several tillage systems are currently being used by progressive growers to reduce inputs, conserve soil and water, and insure good plant stands, including:
- Zone tillage (also called strip tillage)
- Minimum tillage with “combination” implements
- Fall tillage with fall or spring planted cover crops
Tillage Tracks and Soil compaction
Soil compaction, which can severely reduce sugarbeet yield, can be cuased by operating tillage implements in “wet” soil, by excessive tillage, by repeated tire traffic, and most often by excessive pressure of tire against soil. Soil compaction risk cann be minimized by:
- Minimizing weight of the tractor or implement
- Increasing flotation (low pressure tire systems, tracks)
- Controlled traffic systems (zone tillage)
- Avoiding tillage or graffic when soils are too “wet” or “loose”
Selecting a planting date is a crucial step in maximizing sugarbeet yield. The goal is to maximize interception of sunlight by the sugarbeet plant leaves, especially in the early growing season. Early plant canopy means high yield potential. However, planting too early increases frost risk. Producers need to consider the following:
• Total number of acres being planted
• Time required to plant an acre
• Probability of precipitation that would limit field work; and
• Probability of freeze that would damage young plants.
Chapter 7 of the Sugarbeet Production Guide covers planting. It has details on several other factors producers need to consider, including:
• Row Width
• Plant Population
• Plant-to-Stand vs Thinning – What Seed Spacing?
• Depth of Planting
• Sugarbeet Planters
• Seed Coating
• Field Speed
• Planter Maintenance
• How to Calibrate a Planter for Sugarbeet
• Planter Test Stand
• General Purpose “Corn” Planter vs. Precision Sugarbeet Planter?
• Planter Adaptability
• Seed Monitor
• Seed Firming Wheels or Devices
• Row Firming or Cleaning Accessories
• Pneumatic vs Mechanical Seed Metering
• Furrow Opener
• Press Wheels
• Tips for Popular Planters
• How to Measure Actual Plant Population and Percent Field Emergence
A successful sugarbeet harvest provides the grower with the maximum quantity of sugarbeet root that was grown in the field and delivers to the processor the maximum quality of root to optimize processing efficiency. To get the most from the sugarbeet crop, the grower should address the following issues in preparation for and during harvest:
• Field preparation
• Crop maturity
• Timing of harvest
• Defoliation and scalping
• Digging and handling
• Root damage
• Field loss – (Click here to see a guideline for estimating field loss)
• Effect of soil compaction on following crops
• Tare disposal
• Custom harvest
This section is a compilation of Chapters 5, 7 and 13 of the Sugarbeet Production Guide – EC156. Chapter 5: Tillage and Seedbed Preparation and Chapter 13: Sugarbeet Harvest were prepared by John A. Smith. Chapter 7: Planting was prepared by C. Dean Yonts, John A. Smith and Robert G. Wilson.
- Sugarbeet Production Guide - EC156
- John A. Smith, Professor and Machinery Systems Engineer, University of Nebraska – Panhandle Research & Extension Center
- C. Dean Yonts, Associate Professor of Biological Systems Engineering
- Choosing the Right Tillage System for Row Crop Production, NebGuide G1516 - Systematically consider 19 criteria, in addition to the cost of conversion, in choosing a tillage system for your farming operation.
- Management to Minimize and Reduce Soil Compaction, NebGuide G896 - This NebGuide will help you understand how natural processes and management practices can reduce existing soil compaction and minimize its further development.
- 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.
- Planting and Harvesting Information for Nebraska Crops, NebGuide G1757 - Information on the normal practices of planting and harvesting crops grown in Nebraska are provided in this publication