Sugar Producer

March 2022

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New seed varieties from Betaseed are showing promise to get growers out of the sprayer and on with life. Story and photos courtesy Betaseed It's 6:00 on an August evening on a fifth-generation family farm near Comstock, Minnesota. Dinner is nearly ready and Molly Askegaard is wondering where her husband is. A quick cell phone call confirms her suspicions: he'll miss dinner because he's out spraying beets. "My wife is a city girl, and she says it seems like I'm always in the sprayer," says missing spouse Ben Askegaard. "This time of year, I can't argue. We're all pretty sick of it." Askegaard is entering the fourth quarter of his ongoing contest with a familiar foe: Cercospora leaf spot. It's a relentless disease that turns sugarbeet leaves brown, short- circuits sugar production and sharply cuts beet yields. And while the constant fungicide treatments can be time-consuming, Askegaard says that they easily beat the alternative. "The spraying gets old, but if you get behind the 8 ball on this stuff, you are in serious trouble." It is a position he knows all too well following a 2020 growing season that he characterizes as a "train wreck." Rampant Cercospora led to a disappointing harvest and a significant dip in sugar production. So this particular August evening, he's busy finishing up his fourth spray regimen even as he reluctantly admits the likely need for a fifth. At $20 to $30 per acre for each application, it adds up to a large investment across his 650 acres of beets. Askegaard notes that he has wheat to harvest, ditching to do, and a large list of additional duties that are all joining tonight's dinner on hold because he's stuck in the sprayer. Sadly, he is not alone. The problem of Cercospora has only grown in recent years as the disease has adapted to thwart increasingly aggressive spray programs. Co-ops have been able to offer some help through strip trials that help to define the most effective spray mix, but that relief only keeps growers one short step ahead of the disease. Each field is part of a vicious cycle with impacts to costs, the environment and work-life balance. Luckily for growers like Askegaard, there is a new approach available, one that promises to be a real game-changer: genetics. KWS, a global sugarbeet seed partner since 1856, is the This strip trial in Glyndon, Minnesota, highlights healthy CR+ varieties resistant to Cercospora grow healthier beet plants. 12 SUGAR PRODUCER | MARCH 2022 Sideā€¦ lus On the

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