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Reducing Fertilizer Use

To minimize the environmental impact and to achieve the greatest productivity on every acre, sugar beet growers at SMBSC employ the latest research and recommendations from the University of Minnesota and our research agronomists.

Nitrogen Reduction & Management
For over 13 years, the SMBSC Agronomy team has worked with cooperative growers and University of Minnesota researchers to develop nitrogen fertilization management techniques to reduce fertilizer use while maintaining - and even increasing - quality and production.

By following newly developed management techniques, SMBSC growers reduced nitrogen use by approximately 35 million pounds from 2003-2012. Growers use soil sampling to minimize the amount of nitrogen applied while maximizing the amount of sugar recovered from each acre. Since 2004, SMBSC growers have increased sugar production by an average of 1,500 pounds per acre. Satellite imagery is used to identify different soil types present throughout each field. Each soil type is sampled, tested for residual nutrients and the appropriate amount of fertilizer is added.

Organic Matter Zone Mapping
SMBSC developed a patented technology to create crop management zones based on Soil Organic Matter (OM) content. This technology allows growers to produce better crops while at the same time help the environment by reducing fertilizer application.

This sampling technology helps SMBSC growers accurately assess how much fertilizer is needed by combining satellite imagery and years of small plot and whole field research trials to predict zones within fields with similar OM content. With this information, growers can implement the Plant Nutrition Institutes "4Rs" of fertilizer management: "Right Source" at the "Right Rate" in the "Right Place" at the "Right Time".

Soil Testing
SMBSC's Soil Testing Program is a key management technique for understanding soil fertility levels and ensuring that fertilizer is not overused. Growers provide soil samples of the next year's sugar beet fields that are sent to a designated third-party testing facility for analysis. SMBSC covers the cost of the analysis of those samples. This program helps growers better understand the current level of fertility in soils and allows them to make the best possible fertility management decisions.
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