- Agronomic: sugarbeets
- Crop Production: nutrient management
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Soil Management: soil analysis
The biggest opportunity for Western Sugar Cooperative (WSC) growers to improve environmental outcomes and profitability is to reevaluate nutrient recommendations for sugarbeet. This project will create a new nitrogen model that does not impede yield but reduces reliance on exogenous fertilizers. This improves farm economics for the grower by improving beet quality and sugar extractability while reducing input costs. Environmental benefits from this project are reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and eutrophication, both of which are currently disproportionate for Western Sugar compared to less nitrogen-heavy beet production regions in the United States. Currently, nearly fifty percent of the total GHG emissions associated with WSC beet sugar production is a result of the manufacturing and application of nitrogenous fertilizers. This project partners WSC technical leadership with a diverse set of five farmers across Montana, Colorado and Nebraska. Farm-scale, side-by-side comparison of standard nitrogen rates versus scientifically-justified reduced rates will be conducted during the 2021 crop year. Impacts to the environment and crop productivity will be assessed using: 1) soil and water sampling/analysis, 2) petiole testing, 3) nutrient use efficiency and 4) root yield, sugar content and sugar loss to molasses at harvest. Significant evidence gathered from local, small-scale field research and comparison to other production regions suggest this project will be a success. Since WSC is wholly grower-owned, there is a direct educational pipeline from the trusted technical expert to the grower such that the results and benefits of this project will be shared and adopted Cooperative-wide.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Create new and improved nutrient stewardship Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Western Sugar Cooperative sugarbeet growers.
- Reduce the environmental impacts of sugarbeet cultivation in the Rocky Mountain West, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions and eutrophication potential from beet sugar production.
- Improve farm economics by reducing input costs and increasing sugar yield/extractability
- Educate the broader Cooperative membership on the results of the project and facilitate the broad-spectrum adoption of the BMPs.