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Preparing for sugar beet planting in Wyoming

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

With spring approaching, it is time to start preparing for this year’s planting. Factors such as drought, weed invasion, diseases, pests and fertilizer prices influence sugar beet yield and revenue. 

With the majority of Wyoming currently being in a moderate to extreme drought, water availability may influence this year’s crop yield. 

Additionally, herbicide and fertilizer prices are up this year. Therefore, before buying and applying fertilizers, I recommend producers collect soil samples of pastures. If assistance is needed with this, a local University of Wyoming Extension educator can be a great resource. 

Soil samples can be sent to Ward Labs and producers can decide preferred depth of analysis, but the routine analysis runs $20 per sample. 

However, testing soil can be economically beneficial because it allows producers to see what nutrients are needed in each pasture, which helps avoid over-spreading or under-spreading fertilizer. 

Weed management

Sugar beets are a valuable cash crop but weed infestation can reduce the sugar beet yield. Broadleaf weeds such as lambsquarter, hairy nightshades, horse weed, pigweed, waterhemp and kochia are a major concern in sugar beet production due to limited weed control options and the ability of weeds to compete with the crop. 

According to a 2018 publication by Soltani et al., in Wyoming from 2002-2017, on average 12,575 metric unit of square measure (ha) were harvested with sugar beets. The average yield was 59.6 tonnes/ha or 131,395.5 pounds per ha. 

However, weed infestation areas could reduce yields by up to 77.1 percent or 46 tonnes/ ha. The economic impact weeds have on sugar beets are huge, therefore, weed management is important. However, the impact varies on weed abundance. 

The cheapest and most effective way to control these weed species is through early detection and managing for them early on before they spread. When spreading herbicides, hand removal can be used to control these species. When applying herbicides, application timing and herbicide selectivity influence the effectiveness. 

Ethofumesate (Nortron SC) can effectively control kocia. Work with a local Extension educator, specialist and a local weed and pest specialist to determine the best treatment plan. 


Root, leaf and crown diseases also affect sugar beet production. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with the diseases affecting sugar beet production. In order to be able to control the disease before it spreads, it’s best to recognize early when the crop is impacted.  

One of the most serious and destructive leaf diseases in Wyoming, particularly in southeast Wyoming, is Cercospora leaf spot (CLS). CLS is a common disease caused by the airborne fungus, Cercospora beticola. Additionally, this disease can cause losses of up to 40 percent. CLS can be identified as spots initially growing on older leaves and then progressing to younger leaves. 

The spots can be an eighth of an inch in diameter, circular to oval spots with an ash-colored center having purple to brown borders. Leaves severely infected turn yellow-brown and look burned. 

To manage for this disease and reduce yield loss, a producer may use leaf spot-tolerant cultivars or fungicidal sprays. However, the disadvantages of fungicidal sprays are some strains of the pathogen, particularly those in the benzimidazole class, have developed resistance.

Therefore, to best manage for CLS, it is important to integrate fungicide applications along with using resistant cultivars and prudent cultural practices, such as rotation and cultivation to reduce levels of infested residue.

For more information regarding soil testing, visit

Alex Orozco is a University of Wyoming Extension educator in Crook County. Send comments on this article to 

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