Research and Demonstration of Minimum Tillage and Optimum Water Management in Sugarbeet Production in Eastern Montana

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $247,410.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Chengci Chen
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sugarbeets


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: general crop production


    Montana ranks 6th in the nation in sugarbeet production. The sugar industry in eastern Montana (and western North Dakota) contributes substantially to the regional economy. Specifically, Sidney Sugars, Inc. in eastern Montana, employed an equivalent of 186 full-time workers and the industry indirectly supported an additional 805 full-time equivalent jobs in the two-state region. Thus, sustaining sugarbeet production and conservation of soil and water are very important to the society in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. In this project, we addressed three major concerns associated with sugarbeet production, including conservation tillage, proper irrigation, and nitrogen management in Montana, North Dakota, and other sugarbeet production areas. The specific objectives of this project were to: research on strip tillage or no-till for sugarbeet production, and optimize irrigation management and develop a canopy-sensor-based N management approach for sugarbeet. Field experiments were conducted in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 at the Eastern Agricultural Research Center (EARC) located in Sidney, MT and cooperating farms including: Experiment 1, tillage and nitrogen management (2016, 2017, and 2018); Experiment 2, optimization of irrigation management (2016 and 2018); Experiment 3, development of a sensor-based nitrogen management system for sugarbeet (2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019); and Experiment 4, on-farm no-till demonstration and foliar application of nutrients (2018 and 2019). Results presented in this report show that no-till sugarbeet can produce the same or better root yield, sucrose concentration, and extractible sugar yield with less production costs compared with conventional tillage.

    Project objectives:

    OBJECTIVE 1: Research on strip tillage and no-till for sugarbeet production (to compare yield and quality of sugarbeet under strip tillage and no-till with conventional tillage)

    OBJECTIVE 2: Optimize irrigation management and develop a canopy-sensor-based N management approach for sugarbeet

    OBJECTIVE 3: Increase awareness of the growers about the importance of conservation tillage and optimum N and water management

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.