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Field day is July 13 for test plot for sugarbeets planted into corn

The Wilkin County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting a field day July 13, 2022, on a field owned by Vance Johnson of Breckenridge, Minnesota. He has offered up a 60-acre field to study soil health and conservation practices.

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Vance Johnson is a fourth-generation farmer at Breckenridge, Minnesota.
Evan Girtz / Agweek
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Editor's note: Jeff Beach will be checking up with Vance Johnson throughout the growing season as part of our Follow a Farmer series.

BRECKENRIDGE, Minn. — The sugarbeets got planted late, but they are up, and the field day in Wilkin County is on.

The Wilkin County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting a field day July 13 at a test plot owned by farmer Vance Johnson, who planted 60 acres of sugarbeets in a field that had been corn last year.

“Things are starting to take off and look like something,” Johnson said Tuesday, July 5, about the field he planted May 28.

People interested in his experiment can take a look July 13, beginning at 9:30 a.m., with discussion about the plot, which includes comparing conventional tillage, stip-till and no-till. Each of the three tillage areas also is divided into halves — half with cover crops and half without.

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The test plot is one mile north of Breckenridge at the corner of U.S. Highway 75 and Wilkin County Highway 16.

From 11:30 to noon, University of Minnesota Extension researcher Jodi DeJong-Hughes will discuss her research on strip-till sugarbeets.

Vance Johnson of Breckenridge, Minnesota, has offered up a 60-acre field for five years of study on soil health and conservation practices.

After lunch DeJong-Hughes and the Natural Resources Conservation Service will discuss a rain simulator, wind simulator and “Soil Your Undies,” a soil health test involving burying underwear in a field to see how quickly it deteriorates.

There is no cost to attend but people wanting to eat lunch are asked to RSVP at 218-643-2933, extension 3 or email kimberly.melton@mn.nacdnet.net .

While the cool, wet spring mean Johnson didn’t get the field planted until late May, the last of his sugarbeet acres, he was able to able to get all three tillage areas planted on the same day, something he wasn’t sure would be possible.

“There was definitely some plantability differences," Johnson said.
He said the strip till portion was the most challenging, which he found somewhat surprising.

He said if he was planting a whole field of strip-till, “I probably would have fine-tuned my trash whips a little bit differently than what I did. … I had the trash whips set fairly light but they were just light enough to take the gray light crust off of the strip but there was muck underneath and kinda started causing some problems."

In hindsight, he says he might have been better off using row cleaners. But overall, “it went way better than I thought,” Johnson said.

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He said that in general the field looks better than another field of conventional tillage sugarbeets he planted a few days earlier, but he says maybe he planted that field too early, given the wet conditions.

The poor spring weather forced Johnson to take prevented planting coverage on 80 acres he had intended for corn.

As far as emergence goes, he said the cover crop on the no-till area was killed off a little late, which may cause some problems.

“Time will tell,” Johnson said.

And the strip-till area has recovered from the planting problems.

“The strip-till is starting to take off and getting ahead of conventional till,” he said.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
What to read next
In annual report to Renville County, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative outlined the costly challenges it faced meeting environmental compliance goals in 2021.
In northern growing areas a cold, wet spring delayed planting, and then wind destroyed some of the acreage so farmers had to replant it. In western states, hail damaged acres shortly after they were replanted because of wind damage