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Kacper Łata

10 Nov 2022

Sugar beet sowing - what is worth remembering?

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Sowing of sugar beets - what is worth remembering?

When sowing sugar beets, their proper development depends on weather conditions, temperature and soil structure and moisture. When sowing this crop, it is important to remember that any unreasonable delay in sowing can result in irreparable losses in yield, so it is worth familiarizing yourself with the practices described below. 

How to sow sugar beets? - cultivation requirements.

Unfortunately, not every soil is suitable for growing beets. The plant is quite demanding. Most often this vegetable is sown on light to medium loam or clayey soils. The soil itself should be rich in microorganisms and micronutrients, have a high humus content and provide a fair amount of water. Interestingly, the soil should be characterized by an even structure throughout its profile and have a deep plowing layer.

A threat to this crop can be frosts, which often stunt seedlings, so it is worth keeping up to date with weather forecasts. A recommended action is to test the soil temperature, as favorable conditions for sugar beets are a minimum of 5 degrees Celsius at a depth of about 5 cm, and in addition, the soil should be moderately moist. Soil that is too wet will make it difficult for machinery to work in the field, which will result in the destruction of the entire soil structure.

During cultivation, sugar beet needs to be fertilized, as the plant already has a high demand for nutrients at the very start. The recommended fertilization with phosphorus and potassium is given in compound fertilizers already in autumn. It can also be done in the spring, but this treatment must be done relatively early to avoid salinization of the soil in the zone where the beet sprouts. We are talking about a period of about 2 or 3 weeks before sowing. It's worth thinking about giving magnesium and sulfur to help the effectiveness of nitrogen fertilization.

Emerging frosts are a major threat to beet plantations. When the beet is in the germination and cotyledon stage, the temperature that goes down to -2 degrees Celsius destroys the plant completely. If our crop is in the stage of the first pair of proper leaves and in the later stages of growth, the temperature that goes down to -5 degrees Celsius is not a threat.

Sowing dates for sugar beets.

Beet cultivation in Poland should begin as soon as possible, because the later you sow the seeds, the lower the yield you can expect. In fact, only an early crop will provide well-developed roots whose quality will be satisfactory. In addition, plants that start their vegetation relatively early enter more quickly into the stage when the spare roots are spreading. It is important that the level of moisture in the soil is sufficient, because only in such an environment do sugar beets germinate faster and cover the soil surface with leaves, which helps the soil and stops the loss of large amounts of water.

It is worth mentioning that early sowing leads to an earlier harvest, during which you can take advantage of better weather that facilitates field work. On the other hand, delayed sowing, will result in a delayed harvest, which has no positive effects, as there is little increase in root weight and sugar levels in late autumn.

The sowing date itself for sugar beets depends on the region of the country, but the optimal date is in the second decade of March and early April. Before sowing, it is necessary to study the soil temperature and the upcoming weather conditions well. Unheated soil can delay the emergence of beets for up to 30 days after sowing, and in the best case the plants can emerge after just a week.

The sowing date for sugar beets by region is as follows:

  • Southwest: in mid-March and early April.
  • In the Northeast, sowing is carried out in mid to late April.
  • In the center of the country, sowing is carried out in the first decade of April.

Soil temperature is the basis in determining the sowing date. Moisture level, minimum temperature, optimum conditions, choosing the correct sowing depth and the method of fertilization are key issues that can determine the high yield. 

Depth and density of sowing.

Planting density in a plantation should be between 80,000 and 100,000 plants per hectare. If we cannot afford it, the minimum planting density is 60,000 plants per hectare. For ideal yields, beets need a minimum of 180 days of vegetation, which starts from the moment of emergence. When the peeled plant density is higher the yield will be slightly higher, but the number of small roots will increase, which can result in losses during mechanical harvesting. When we peel the density lower, the decrease in yield will be quite significant, and at the same time the sugar content of the beet roots will decrease.

Importantly, the distance between all rows should be the same. Most often it is 45 cm, and sowing is done every 18 cm. Beet seeds should be protected in a coating that protects them from any diseases, and the soil for sowing must be well aerated and prepared. Sowing of sugar beets takes place at a depth of about 1-1.5 cm in less heated soils and up to 3 cm in warm and dry soils. During sowing, precision is extremely important, so the technical condition of the machine is crucial. It should have efficient seeding apparatuses, well-functioning harrowing elements and sharpened coulters.

Harvest timing and recommendations.

From the moment we sow, our crops develop every day until the time comes to harvest. Unfortunately, it's not, as simple as that, because you need to determine the order of digging before they begin. There are a few options for activities to look at, namely:

  • It is worth doing the harvest on dry days, so that the soil moisture does not damage the roots, which would bring additional losses.
  • It is advisable to start harvesting from the "inferior" rows, as plant growth is much greater in well-groomed and healthy beets.
  • Attention should be paid to follow-up crops.
  • You can think about using wide tires that have the ability to adjust the pressure, as this can protect the soil structure and reduce fuel consumption.

Harvesting time depends on factors such as weather conditions and the readiness of sugar mills to start processing the raw material. Sugar beets reach their maturity after about 170-180 days of vegetation. Typically in Poland, harvesting begins in the third decade of September and ends even in November.

If we decide to harvest earlier, to a large extent the work begins below 160 days of plant vegetation. Unfortunately, with this strategy, yield reduction is the norm. Sugar beets are not able to take full advantage of the soil and climatic conditions found. However, when the crop is damaged by diseases or pests, it is necessary to carry out digging as soon as possible.


The answer to the question "when to sow sugar beets" is not clear-cut. Beet sowing depends on many factors. We should not rigidly stick to the date and sow as early as possible, because low temperatures can unexpectedly surprise, which will adversely affect seed germination, soil and plant density. The correct sowing date for sugar beets, should go hand in hand with good soil structure and medium moisture, which assists in the process of plant development. We should also remember that a day's delay in harvesting or a postponed sowing date will always have its pros and cons. At the sowing stage, it is difficult to predict when the onset of leaf production will occur, as the temperature below the surface plays the most important role in the plant growth stage.


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