Beet dis­ease fight­ers al­ways busy, help pro­duce record crop

Plant sci­en­tists fight the war against fun­gus

The Covington News - - AGRICULTURE & OUTDOORS -

FARGO, N.D. — Plant sci­en­tists who work to pro­tect Red River Val­ley sugar beet fields from weeds and dis­ease have helped farm­ers en­joy record crops in the last two years.

De­spite that suc­cess, there’s al­ways work to be done — al­ways an­other fun­gus or or­gan­ism wait­ing in the wings, said Mohamed Khan, a North Dakota State Univer­sity plant pathol­o­gist.

“It’s kind of job se­cu­rity,” he said with a laugh.

“We look at th­ese or­gan­isms as our en­e­mies. The only way to con­trol them is to study them and un­der­stand them.”

The com­bi­na­tion of timely pes­ti­cide ap­pli­ca­tions and dis­ease re­sis­tant seed va­ri­eties has led to back-to-back huge har­vests for North Dakota and Min­nesota beet farm­ers.

This year’s yield is ex­pected to be about 24 tons per acre, run­ner-up to last year’s record of 25.5 tons per acre, said Jeff Sch­weitzer, a spokesman for Amer­i­can Crys­tal Sugar Co.

“If you look back five years ago, our float­ing av­er­age was in the 20 to 21 ton range,” he said. “We’ve re­ally seen that jump sig­nif­i­cantly in the last two years.”

Red River Val­ley farm­ers con­trib­ute more than 50 per­cent of the sugar beet pro- duc­tion in the coun­try. Amer­i­can Crys­tal, the largest sugar beet co­op­er­a­tive, ex­pects to har­vest more than 11 mil­lion tons of beets this year.

“The grow­ers are happy,” Khan said. “And when the grow­ers are happy, ev­ery­body ben­e­fits.”

Aphanomyces, fusar­ium, rhi­zoc­to­nia and rhi­zo­ma­nia are the four pri­mary root dis­eases that threaten Red River Val­ley sugar beets, said Al­lan Cat­tanach, gen­eral agron­o­mist for Amer­i­can Crys­tal. Seed va­ri­eties can be re­sis­tant to any three dis­eases at one time, but rarely all four.

“That would be like win­ning the Power­ball,” he said.

Fight­ing fun­gus can be tricky. Grow­ers try to al­ter­nate fungi­cides and ap­ply as lit­tle as pos­si­ble to pre­vent or­gan­isms from mu­tat­ing.

For all the re­cent suc­cess, Cat­tanach said, some fields still were aban­doned this year be­cause of fusar­ium and aphanomyces. And a 20 per­cent hit to a farmer’s crop can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween profit and loss.

“You al­ways try and stay ahead of the latest and great­est chal­lenge,” Cat­tanach said. “We’re com­fort­able. But we’re never com­pla­cent.”

Mark Nyquist, a sugar beet farmer in west­ern Min­nesota, said fight­ing dis­eases is an on­go­ing bat­tle.

“The breed­ers are ag­gres­sively try­ing to stay on top of this. But then, you get a dif­fer­ent strain,” Nyquist said. “The more they learn and the more they know, the more they fight.”

The fight also pits plant sci­en­tists against weeds that threaten beets. Kosha, pig- weed and lamb’s-quar­ters are the big­gest prob­lems, Cat­tanach said. They can be con­trolled only by pes­ti­cides or man­ual la­bor.

Kosha is one of the plants com­monly known as tum­ble­weed. Pig­weed is an up­right plant with few branches, each of which is now capped by fuzzy spikes of seed heads. Lamb’s-quar­ters is more bushy and, like pig­weed, grows from a foot to a few feet high.

“Weeds are still the No. 1 prob­lem,” Cat­tanach said. “We get a lot of calls and emails about that.”

Mega­farms

OMAHA, Neb. — U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson is co-spon­sor­ing a mea­sure to limit fed­eral sub­si­dies avail­able to farm­ers.

“Mega­farms should not re­ceive mega­pay­ments,” the Ne­braska Demo­crat said Wed­nes­day in a tele­phone con­fer­ence with re­porters. “A pay­ment cap will bring eq­uity back to the pro­gram.”

Sens. By­ron Dor­gan, DN.D., and Charles Grass­ley, R-Iowa, in­tro­duced the amend­ment that would limit a mar­ried cou­ple to $250,000 in sub­si­dies per year. Cur­rent law al­lows $360,000 an­nu­ally.

The mea­sure is part of the pro­posed $286 bil­lion fed­eral farm bill now be­fore the Se­nate.

Pres­i­dent Bush has threat­ened to veto the bill, say­ing the leg­is­la­tion would not ad­e­quately pro­tect farm­ers and uses “bud­get gim­micks.”

Nelson ac­knowl­edged rum­blings that ques­tion the pres­i­dent’s mo­tives, not­ing that the farm bill is less ex­pen­sive than other Repub­li­can-backed bills in years past that did not draw ve­toes.

“I don’t know the pres­i­dent’s mo­tives,” he said. “Whether this is sort of a re­born con­ser­vatism or whether it’s his con­cern about not hav­ing the bud­get bal­loon ... that’s sort of up to spec­u­la­tion.”

Ge­or­gia drought

AT­LANTA (AP) _ What to do when the rain won’t come?

If you’re Ge­or­gia Gov. Sonny Per­due you pray.

Per­due will host a prayer ser­vice on Tues­day to ask for re­lief from the drought grip­ping the South­east.

“The only so­lu­tion is rain and the only place we get that is from a higher power,” Per­due spokesman Bert Brant­ley said on Wed­nes­day.

Per­due’s of­fice has sent out in­vi­ta­tions to lead­ers from sev­eral faiths for the ser­vice.

Per­due has sev­eral times men­tioned the need for prayer — along with wa­ter con­ser­va­tion — as the state’s drought cri­sis has wors­ened. Over the sum­mer, he par­tic­i­pated in day of prayer for agri­cul­ture at a gath­er­ing of the Ge­or­gia Farm Bureau in Ma­con.

A Bap­tist, Per­due dis­cussed his faith in some de­tail in an ap­pear­ance last year be­fore The Rev. Jerry Fal­well’s Thomas Road Bap­tist Church. He has en­joyed strong sup­port from Ge­or­gia’s Chris­tian Con­ser­va­tives.

The South­east has been suf­fer­ing from an epic drought in re­cent months that has left its lakes parched. Ge­or­gia has been locked in a bat­tle with Alabama and Florida over how much wa­ter should be sent down­stream from the state’s dwin­dling reser­voirs.

Gov­er­nors from the three states reached a tem­po­rary agree­ment af­ter meet­ing with Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton D. C.

The ser­vice will be held out­side the state Capi­tol on Tues­day. Un­less, of course, it rains.

“Then we’ll move it inside, thank­fully,” Brant­ley said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.