Sugarbeet cyst nematodes continue to devastate nearly one quarter of the crop across the United States. Silent infestation begins at the roots of the plant, with visible signs unfolding only after the pest has spread underground.
The number of fields infested by this microscopic roundworm continues to grow at damaging levels, resulting in significant yield loss and decreased profitability.
Heavily infested fields can suffer yield losses up to 50 percent. Betaseed has aggressively responded with top-performing nematode tolerant varieties to help farmers defeat this pest while increasing yields.
Sugarbeet cyst nematodes attack the roots, lowering yield and sugar content. Growers who have experienced symptoms report stunted and yellowing plants along with wilting during hot conditions.
A confounding factor in dealing with cyst nematodes is that infected plants may exhibit no foliar symptoms. By the time stunted top growth appears, the field may be infested enough to suffer significant yield losses.
Fields with past infestation histories have increased risk. Because nematodes don’t spread evenly, there may be infested areas that soil samples don’t catch. In some cases these hidden pockets have expanded to reduce yields by half.
With such dramatic reductions in yield potential, some fields risk being removed from sugarbeet production altogether.
Control measures, including tare dirt placement, crop rotation and trap crops, have made little impact on the impact of nematodes across the country. While nematicides work well, these chemical treatments add substantial expense per acre.
A random survey conducted by the Michigan Sugar Cooperative and Michigan State University found 22 percent of sampled fields had detectable levels of nematodes. Within the last decade, the economic impact in Michigan alone was estimated at 5 to 10 million dollars lost per year.
Betaseed has been working on this problem for the past 10 years, as nematode pressures have increased. By painstakingly incorporating tolerant traits in select hybrids, they provide superior performance in options for growers – even in areas with little evidence of infestation.
In a 2007 trial with heavy nematode infestation, Betaseed’s nematode tolerant variety outperformed a good quality variety by more than double – in both sugar content and tons per acre.
In 2010, results from NemaCease™ plots found fields with no or very low nematode counts had improved performance from these varieties.
In these fields, the nematode varieties outperformed the non- nematode varieties in Recoverable Sugar per Acre with an average yield increase of more than three tons.
Betaseed’s newest nematode tolerant varieties, now being planted in each market, produce even higher yields.
According to John Dillman, Betaseed’s Regional Sales Manager in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, the performance of nematode tolerant varieties offers positive effects beyond disease resistance. “These varieties give you increased yields and peace of mind,” Dillman noted. “Whether or not you have any infestation.”
Benefits beyond disease resistance: improved yields and resilience
Betaseed’s nematode tolerant varieties are high performing, providing assurance to growers which results in higher yields even in fields without a past history of nematode infestation. This performance translates into higher sugar percentages and tonnage.
With excellent overall disease and pest resistance, nematode tolerant varieties can be planted under many different field disease pressure conditions. Besides resistance to nematode infestation, growers gain extra protection with varieties designed specifically to resist diseases in each market.
Betaseed varieties show more resilience, coming back more quickly and with less stress after hail storms. This translates to continued excellent growth by the plant through the entire growing season.
From finding additional sources of tolerance to developing hybrids with a wider variety of trait combinations, research breeds confidence. The Betaseed product portfolio will continue to develop, with solutions that combat the threat of nematodes and provide growers with options for successful crops.