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Cultivation and liming of sugar beet

Published: 2022-06-02 img

WHAT SOIL REQUIREMENTS DOES SUGAR BEET HAVE?

Before starting work related to fertilizing or liming the soil, it is necessary to analyze its chemical composition. The most important aspect is to maintain the appropriate pH of the soil. Sugar beets achieve the best yields when the soil pH ranges from 6.0 to 7.2. When the soil pH drops below 6.0, liming is necessary before sugar beet sowing can be considered.

If the soil pH is too low, sugar beets will lose the ability to absorb macronutrients from the soil, including phosphorus. This triggers a toxic process of aluminum ion interaction and reduces the activity of soil bacteria. Consequently, the rate of organic matter decomposition in the soil deteriorates. In acidic soil, sugar beets form lower-quality roots, making it difficult for them to absorb water and obtain the necessary nutrients. The acidic soil pH also promotes the growth of fungi and infections throughout the plantation, making proper liming of sugar beet plantations extremely important.

HOW DOES SOIL pH AFFECT SUGAR BEET CULTIVATION?

Low soil pH results in sugar beets producing low leaf and root mass. Additionally, the plant struggles to accumulate sugar in the root. When the soil pH drops below 5.5 and aluminum begins its toxic effects, sugar beets:

  • develop smaller roots;
  • absorb phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and molybdenum less effectively, making these nutrients less available in the soil for sugar beets;
  • slow down the nitrogen mineralization process in the soil;
  • exhibit poorer growth;
  • become susceptible to bacterial diseases such as root nodules and fungal diseases such as brown rot or rot.
  • When liming the soil, it is important to adhere to the recommended doses, as excessive soil pH – above 7.2 – is also unfavorable for sugar beets. With soil pH too high, the availability of nutrients and elements in the soil, such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, boron, and manganese, may decrease.

HOW SHOULD SOIL BE LIMED ON A SUGAR BEET PLANTATION?

The best solution is to lime the sugar beet plantation in autumn as a so-called pre-crop or immediately after harvesting the pre-crop plants. It is advisable to mix lime with the soil, for example, Kujawit or Kujawit Premium. If the soil is also low in magnesium, Radkowit or Radkowit Premium should be used. The appropriate doses of lime fertilizers – depending on soil parameters – can be found on the website https://polcalc.pl/. Depending on the soil type, the doses should not exceed 2–3 tons per hectare.

It is worth noting that it is a mistake to spread lime fertilizer in the field before plowing. Lime fertilization done this way does not fulfill its function, as the fertilizer does not mix evenly with the soil and moves to the bottom of the furrow. It is then not present in the plow layer, and consequently, the soil requirements of sugar beets are not met.

It is also a mistake to lime the soil simultaneously with fertilizing the field with manure. Lime promotes faster nitrogen decomposition in the soil. Therefore, it is most beneficial to lime the field in autumn before sowing the pre-crop. This also allows for better mixing of lime with the soil.

If it is not possible to lime the soil in autumn and the soil still has poor pH parameters, emergency soil liming can be done in early spring. In this case, it is most optimal to use granulated fertilizer, such as Polcalc III Generation, as well as SuperMag – magnesium lime, in case of magnesium deficiencies in the soil. It is advisable to carry out this procedure in March. Both preparations can also be applied after sugar beet emergence when they have 4 to 8 leaves. The dose should not exceed 500 to 1000 kg per hectare.

WHY IS LIMING WORTH IT?

Liming not only affects the pH of the soil. Calcium plays a very important role in yield formation on a sugar beet plantation. Approximately 110 kg of calcium oxide per hectare is absorbed from the soil for every 50 tons of sugar beet roots produced. Other studies indicate that 40 tons of sugar beet yield per hectare can absorb up to 200 kg of calcium.

Calcium fertilizers improve soil properties and structure. Limed soil retains water and nutrients better, fulfilling the basic conditions for sugar beet cultivation. This prevents the risk of soil crusting after sugar beet sowing, which results in wind erosion and damage to sugar beet seedlings by sand particles in strong winds and dry soil. As a result of this phenomenon, the quality of yields deteriorates.

Sometimes farmers do not test the soil pH and do not apply the appropriate liming. They sow sugar beets in soil that is not properly prepared. Sugar beets then grow much worse. To remedy the situation, farmers use additional mineral fertilization. Unfortunately, it does not yield results; it only increases the costs of sugar beet cultivation, and reduces its profitability, and the plants still cannot extract mineral nutrients from the soil because they are blocked in the soil by its improper pH.

Therefore, it is worth ensuring from the very beginning to conduct a chemical analysis of the soil before sugar beet sowing. Cultivation can be much more beneficial as a result. The key is to regulate the pH level using appropriate lime fertilizers. A well-prepared site for sugar beet sowing can save money and increase its yield.

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