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Fungal Disease a Non-Issue in North Dakota and Minnesota 2023 Sugarbeets

PROSPER, N.D. — Dry conditions, a sugarbeet seed that has resistance to cercospora leaf spot and timely spraying combined to make 2023 a summer of few acres lost to the dreaded fungal disease.

In fact, cercospora was a non-event this growing season, said Mohamed Khan, North Dakota State University Extension assistant director and a sugarbeet plant pathologist.

Khan spoke about cercospora and other sugarbeet research projects during a NDSU Extension research plot tour held Tuesday, Sept. 12, near Prosper, North Dakota, northwest of Fargo, North Dakota.

Cercospora leaf spot, a sugarbeet disease, which Khan, in the past has called the greatest problem facing sugarbeet growers, turns the plant’s leaves brown, reducing yield potential and the storability of the crop. In 2016, cercospora resulted in more than $140 million in sugarbeet crop losses in North Dakota and Minnesota, according to NDSU.

A “game changer” for the industry was the CR+ — cercospora resistance plus performance sugarbeet seed. KWS Saat, the parent company for Betaseed, commercialized CR+ in 2021 for some southern North Dakota and Minnesota Red River Valley sugarbeet growers.

Two years later, planting of CR+ seed by North Dakota and Minnesota farmers ranges from members of sugarbeet cooperatives planting half of their acreage with the resistant seed and half with traditional seed to planting it on 100% of their acreage, Khan said.

“Minn-Dak has 100% CR+ and American Crystal Sugar Co American Crystal Sugar Co and Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op plant,about 50% conventional and 50% CR+,’ he said.

Besides giving information about research underway to control cercospora, Khan also talked about the Prosper plot trials that are studying the use of strip till, conventional till and no-till methods to grow sugarbeets.

Despite what some sugarbeet farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota believe, it is possible to produce sugarbeets using the no-till method, Khan said.

“In the West, that’s what they do to save moisture,” he said.

The research of the no-till, conventional till and strip till research plots began three years ago and, depending on whether funding is available, will continue for five years, Khan said.

The biggest challenge to using no-till methods to produce sugarbeets and other crops which have small seeds, is the residue that is left in the field when corn is planted the previous year, he said. Farmers should harvest the corn with a combine that breaks up the corn stalks into small pieces, he advised.

Meanwhile, when corn, soybeans or wheat are planted on a field in which sugarbeets were grown the previous year, the furrows that remain after the plants are dug must be smoothed out.

Source : AG Week