Growing Fodder Beets
Fodder beets (Beta vulgaris L.)
Fodder beets thrive best on well-drained soil with a high lime content in which the pH should be at least 6.5 in order to inhibit root rot fungus. On sandy soils, the possibility of irrigation and stopping of sand drift with liquid manure is an advantage.
There should be at least 3 years between beet crops on the same area in order to reduce the risk of disease, pest and weed problems.
The autumn ploughing is finished with a furrow levelling to secure a plane seedbed with uniform moisture conditions. Spring ploughing can normally be practised in most places – in particular where treatment with soil packing is used right after ploughing. Spring-ploughed soil normally gives a quicker heating of the soil and good possibility of using domestic animal manure.
Harrowing prior to sowing must be sufficiently superficial to achieve the ideal seedbed. A thin, loose layer of soil on a moist, firm subsoil where the seeds are placed. The harrowing must also ensure a suitable crumb structure without too fine comminution of, in particular, clay soil and without the surface drying out.
When the soil is fit for cultivation for the first time after 1 April (Denmark), it is time to sow the beets. This should preferably take place in a period with prospects of good soil temperature. With sowing times from around 5-20 April, there is no major decrease in yield. Re-sowing of poorly established fields should be considered carefully – re-sowing in early May will thus only be relevant for a plant stock of less than 40,000 per ha – provided that there is an even distribution on the area. For re-sowing after 1 June, another crop than beets should be chosen.
The depth of covering should be 2-3 cm with the seed placed ½ cm down in moist soil. It is important that the depth of covering is checked at regular intervals and that the sowing work is performed correctly with a driving speed of max. 5 km an hour.
Seed Quantity – Plant Figure
70,000-75,000 plants per ha with an even distribution is desired. The seed quantity must be adjusted in accordance with the expected field germination, which is evaluated right before sowing. The table shows the correlation between seed distance, row distance, field germination percentage and seed consumption. A field germination percentage of 60-65 is the mean in triploid species such as Kyros, Magnum and Troya, whereas diploid species such as Nestor are 4-5% higher.
Seed quantity for pelleted beet seed:
NB: When sowing beet seed which has not been dressed, twice the quantity must be sown to achieve a satisfactory plant stock.
The seed is normally delivered in units of 100,000 seeds with a seed size of 3.50-4.75 mm, and it is therefore important that the holes in the belts are at least 0.25 mm larger than the largest seeds. The seed has been pelleted and dressed against early attacks of fungal diseases and pests such as springtails, nematodes, thrips and the 1st generation of beet-fly larva.
60-70 tonnes cattle manure or an equivalent quantity of liquid manure + farmyard manure normally covers the phosphorus, potassium and magnesium requirement. Part of the manure may be buried between the rows during the growth period (June). In addition to 40 kg phosphorus and 200 kg potassium, the total nutrient requirement is approx. 180 kg nitrogen per ha.
The efficiency of the nitrogen in the domestic animal manure depends on the time of application: approx. 50% for spring application vs. approx. 20% in the autumn. The remaining quantity is applied as commercial fertilizer – possibly with several applications (on light soil).
Up to 20 tonnes manure per ha in the period right after sowing may inhibit soil drift where there is a risk of this.
Beets are open crops which competes poorly with weeds early in the growth period. Beets are also very sensitive to weeds in the field, and, consequently, the target is a completely weed-free field throughout the growth season. The weed control can take place mechanically with hoeing by hand and hoeing by machine, but most now prefer a complete chemical solution or a combination of hoeing by machine and chemical weedkilling. All weed control must be adjusted in accordance with weed species and stock, and, consequently, the following can be regarded only as general options:
For large weed stock or with a large share of black nightshade, camomile, crane’s bill, small nettle, common stork’s bill or one-year meadow grass, including over wintered weeds, a dessication with glyphosate-product 2-3 days before soil preparations is recommended.
Leaf herbicide (type phenmedipham, e.g. Betanal) + soil herbicide (ethofumesate and metamitrone, e.g. Goltix). In cool weather, add 1 litre E oil. The herbicide dosage is adjusted according to weeds and weather – a typical solution will be, for example, 1.2 litre phenmedipham (e.g. Betanal) + 1.2 kg Goltix per ha.
5-8 Days Later
Repeat the treatment.
2-3 Weeks Later
Third treatment if required.
Composite species such as large camomile plants and thistles must be treated with chlorpyralide (Matrigon) and grass weed incl. couch grass, wild oat-grass and waste grain with 0.75 – 1.0 litre Fusilade Extra + 0.3 litre Lissapol Bio per ha around 1 June. Couch grass should not appear in large quantities in the beet field, but should be combated in autumn with Round-up.
As the pH should be high to reduce root rot attacks, attention should be paid to any manganese deficiency, which is remedied with, e.g., 5 kg manganese sulphate/ha. Boron deficiency may occur and is remedied with 5 kg Solubor/ha. Beets may also incur a number of fungal diseases in the autumn, e.g. rust, mildew and stain mould. These do normally not need to be combated.
Fungicide treatment of the seeds with Promet, which is standard in Denmark, will normally control attacks of earth-boring pests in the germination stage, thrips, pigmy mangold beetles, carrion beetles and the first attacks of beet-fly larvae.
When the beets have 2-4 foliage leaves, attacks of beet-fly larvae may be ascertained, and there may also be a risk of attacks of bean aphis and/or peach aphis. Be aware of signs of aphis attacks and combat with a suitable pesticide – pyrethroid or Pirimor/Protex. To reduce the risk of peach aphis attacks, clamps should be removed not later than by 1 May.
Owl larvae and 2nd and 3rd generations of the beet-fly may subsequently occur as pests. Be aware of signs.
There are two main types of bolters: “Ordinary” bolters and weed beets. Ordinary bolters are induced by cold in the spring period, and there is some variety variation in the tendency to bolting. They form a normal beet body and are in particular a nuisance by making topping and lifting difficult and should therefore be cut down and, for the earliest occurring bolters, removed from the area. Weed beets are the result of unwanted cross fertilisation with wild types of beet forms in connection with seed production. Weed beets bolt early and produce seed which can lie for a long time in the ground, and new weed beets are formed in connection with germination. These bolters do not form a normal beet body, but instead a branched root. Weed beets must be removed from the field, as they may otherwise make future beet growing impossible in the area.
Topping should take place so that the beets are damaged as little as possible, otherwise the storage loss may be heavy. The top may be ensiled – to avoid juice run-off, this should take place together with, for example, whole-seed ensilage, straw, beet or green pellets. The beets must be lifted with minimum damage to the root, and storage normally takes place safely in a well-controlled pit, which must, in as far as possible, be kept at a temperature of 3-5°C throughout the winter.
Fodder beets may also be ensiled together with straw and beet and green pellets and may consequently be used as feed also in the summer period.
DLF-TRIFOLIUM offers a number of high-yielding varieties.
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