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Extension > Minnesota Crop News > Management of Fields with Un-harvested Sugar beet Fall 2013 for Cropping Year 2014

Management of Fields with Un-harvested Sugar beet Fall 2013 for Cropping Year 2014

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John A. Lamb
Nutrient Management Extension Specialist
University of Minnesota

Because of weather, a number of acres of the 2013 sugar beet crop will not be harvested.  It has been a number of years (PIK years) since this many acres have been left un-harvested.  At that time, SMBSC and the University of Minnesota did conduct a number of research studies to answer the main production question:  "What should I do with these fields for next year?" 
The answer comes in a number of different steps:

1. Remove the foliage from the sugarbeets. This incorporates the foliage into the soil so the nutrients in the sugarbeet foliage can be recycled into the soil. The removal of the foliage from the sugarbeet, also allows the beet root to degrade and dehydrate faster. Chopping up the foliage will help prevent the petioles from becoming rope-like next spring and reduce the potential to wrap around equipment and cause buildup on equipment in the spring.

2. Do not harvest the beet root. There is nowhere to take it and you might as well let it rot and dehydrate in the soil.

3. Do not till the ground this fall. Research results indicate that it is better not to do tillage in the fall. If you conduct tillage this fall, it is important to completely cover the sugarbeet. The best results come from delaying the first tillage to the spring and at that time use a field cultivator.

4. Consider planting soybean in the field in 2014. Our research indicates that soybean will grow much better than corn following sugar beet, particularly when the sugar beet is not harvested. For soybean, take a soil test for phosphorus and potassium and apply fertilizer if the soil test results indicate a need.

5. If you must grow corn; get a soil test for phosphorus and potassium. Apply the potassium if the soil test results indicate a need. Potash can be broadcast applied in the fall or spring. Because sugar beet is not a host for fungi that facilitate uptake of phosphorus and zinc, no matter what the soil test indicates, you must use a starter fertilizer of about 40 lbs. P2O5/A and 2 lbs. Zn/A. It must be as a starter band. Similar to fallow syndrome following harvested sugarbeets, a broadcast application following unharvested sugarbeets, will not work. As for nitrogen, fertilize the corn as if it were a corn on corn situation.

The situation of growing a crop after un-harvested sugar beet is not optimum but following the guidelines listed above will help produce a good crop next year.

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