Each year Michigan Sugar Company conducts its annual Official Sugarbeet Variety Tour (OVT) in “Thumb of Michigan”. This two-day event allows sugarbeet breeders and company personnel to evaluate variety research conducted by Michigan Sugar Company and Michigan State University Sugarbeet Advancement. Michigan’s variety evaluation program is somewhat unique compared to other areas.
For varieties to be approved for planting, they must meet standards set by Michigan Sugar Company which includes an assessment of quality, yield, and disease. Once varieties are approved, Sugarbeet Advancement will evaluate these varieties in large strip trials under less favorable conditions. This two-prong research effort has increased grower success in variety selection.
About Michigan Sugar Company Annual Sugarbeet Variety Tour
The event started this year at the Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center with a summary of USDA-ARS primary research efforts. The USDA is researching three major areas including the development of genetics for use in a productive breeding program, disease resistance, and emergence. It is crucial for USDA to supply genetic diversity for inclusion in sugarbeet breeding programs. Disease resistance efforts focus on Rhizoctonia root rot, Cercospora/Alternaria leaf spots, and Fusarium. As fungicide resistance continues to increase this research is extremely important. Currently, USDA is evaluating 955 East Lansing entries to summarize genetic expression for emergence under 40 conditions.
Michigan Sugar Company is conducting extensive research in all aspects of variety evaluation. For 2017 they are performing eight OVT’s which includes 42 individual varieties. They also are researching three Cercospora leaf spot, two Rhizoctonia, and one sugarbeet cyst nematode nurseries. All are critical disease issues in Michigan. Variety trials are planted at a high population and then thinned to a determined stand. Additionally, four “plant to stand” trials are conducted utilizing commercial seed. These are evaluated for emergence and yield. The Michigan Sugar research program will also use outside resources to assess variety genetics for diseases such as Fusarium, Aphanomycetes, and root aphid.
The Sugarbeet Advancement program each year establishes seven variety trials in the Great Lakes growing region. In these trials, twelve varieties are planted in replicated strip trials for evaluation of emergence, yield and disease tolerance. The emphasis in these trials is to include the newest approved varieties with comparisons to industry standard varieties. Trials are harvested with grower equipment utilizing truck weights or beet carts with digital scales. Often these trials will have more disease and/or less ideal environmental conditions than official variety trials. It is interesting to note that varieties usually perform differently under different conditions. Certainly, disease issues will play a significant role in variety performance. However this research it has found some varieties perform better in sandier soil types.
Overall the Michigan research effort on variety evaluation is excellent. With multiple OVT trials located throughout the growing region, only the best trials will be utilized in test results. Sugarbeet Advancement trials give additional research information to use in variety selection. Michigan has led the industry in producing high-quality sugarbeets. On average they have sustained an annual yield improve of 6/10ths per acre for the last twenty years.