NDSU student's sugarbeet weed control project expands access to effective herbicide

After screening Ultra Blazer for use in sugarbeets , North Dakota State University Extension sugarbeet agronomist Thomas Peters turned over the project to graduate student Emma Burt, who studied and reported on the results of her project over Zoom meetings to sugarbeet cooperative representatives from across the United States for about a year.

Emma Burt
(r) During the 2021 growing season NDSU graduate student Emma Burt gave a presentation about her research project that used Ultra Blazer for control of water hemp in sugarbeets, as Ryan Borgen, NDSU and Riley Larson, MinnDak Farmers Cooperative looked on.
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The research of North Dakota State University graduate student Emma Burt paved the way for an emergency exemption that allowed sugarbeet producers to control water hemp in their 2021 crop with an herbicide previously used on soybeans.

Burt, who is working on her master’s degree in agronomy at NDSU, was assigned by Thomas Peters, NDSU Extension sugarbeet agronomist, to study the efficacy of Ultra Blazer in water hemp control in sugarbeets.

Peters, whose role with Extension includes weed control in sugarbeets in North Dakota, Minnesota and eastern Montana, for the past nine years has worked to control pigweed species, including water hemp. Through Peters’ weed research, which involved screening herbicides used for non-sugarbeet crops, he learned that Ultra Blazer showed promise for water help control in sugarbeets.

Ultra Blazer was a popular herbicide for broadleaf weed control in soybeans during the 1990s, Peters said.

After screening Ultra Blazer for use in sugarbeets , Peters turned over the project to Burt, who studied and reported on the results of her project over Zoom meetings to sugarbeet cooperative representatives from across the United States for about a year.


Burt’s research showed that sugarbeets tolerated Ultra Blazer and that it controlled water hemp in the crop.

During one of the Zoom meetings Burt had with the sugarbeet cooperatives, a cooperative administrator suggested that Ultra Blazer’s label should be approved for sugarbeets, Peters said.

In early 2021, Peters applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for an emergency exemption of Ultra Blazer, citing the poor control of other herbicides, which rely on rainfall for activation, during the 2020 dry growing season.

As it turned out, the 2021 growing season was even drier than the previous year’s.

“It further substantiated the problem we had in 2020,” Peters said. “In May we went to the EPA and we said ‘We made this application and it's worse than we thought it would be.'"

The agency then granted an emergency exemption for the use of Ultra Blazer on sugarbeets in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Ultra Blazer offers the most effective control of water hemp when the water hemp is 6 inches or shorter and the sugarbeets have six or more leaves, Peters said.

After hearing of the exemptions in those two states, Nebraska, Colorado and Michigan also applied for and received emergency exemptions to use Ultra Blazer to control weeds in sugarbeets in those states.


Peters believes that the work of Burt resulted in the first emergency exemption for sugarbeets grown in North Dakota and Minnesota in the history of the crop.

“Emma’s master’s degree work is really the basis for these special labels that EPA has awarded sugarbeet growers,” he said. UPL, the manufacturer of Ultra Blazer, is working to get the herbicide’s label approved for sugarbeet weed control, Peters said.

Research will be conducted this year to determine if Ultra Blazer will control kochia weeds in sugarbeets in western North Dakota, where beets are grown as part of Sidney Sugars.

Burt, who is working as a research agronomist at a Minnesota sugarbeet cooperative, will graduate with her master’s degree in May 2022.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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