Tom Peters was the 2020 recipient of the Sugarbeet Distinguished Serving Award, presented during the annual Sugarbeet Research Reporting Session in January.

The annual Sugarbeet Research Reporting Session was a virtual meeting in 2021. The meeting featured a wide variety of presentations beginning with an update on sugarbeet production challenges in Europe. The United States sugarbeet production segment featured presentations from Idaho, Colorado and Michigan in addition to presentations from researchers and Extension specialists from North Dakota State University, the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, recipients of the Dexter Scholarship and the Sugarbeet Distinguished Service Award were recognized during the meeting.

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The Sugarbeet Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated excellence in sugarbeet research, teaching, and service affecting the sugarbeet industry in Minnesota and North Dakota. Peters is the Extension sugarbeet agronomist and weed control specialist at North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota, supporting farmers growing sugarbeet in Minnesota, North Dakota and eastern Montana. His interests are integrated weed management, including nurse and cover crops and inter-row cultivation complementing pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides, and weed control in crops used in rotations that include sugarbeets.

Peters was honored for his work in providing solutions to the weed control problems he learns about from producers and agriculturalists. He has established himself as one of the “go-to” weed scientists in the sugarbeet industry. Consequently, his advice and opinion are requested by people from across the country, and his influence expands beyond the Minnesota and North Dakota sugarbeet growing region.

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Peters joined NDSU and the University of Minnesota in 2014 after a 25-year career at Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, Mo. He is a Minnesota native, receiving his bachelor's degree in agronomy and soil science at the University of Minnesota, his master's degree from the University of Nebraska and his doctorate from North Dakota State University. Peters has several hobbies including following college football (Peters’ family members are longtime University of Minnesota Golden Gophers season ticket holders), growing hosta and listening to folk music on vinyl.

Peters’ adviser at NDSU was Dr. Alan Dexter, a longtime extension sugarbeet specialist whose work is honored by the Dexter Scholarship. Dexter, a professor emeritus and retired Extension sugarbeet and weed control specialist from 1969-2007, held a split appointment between NDSU and UM and served the sugarbeet industry in the two states.

Jake Botkins was the recipient of the Dexter Scholarship. (Contributed photo / The Sugarbeet Grower)
Jake Botkins was the recipient of the Dexter Scholarship. (Contributed photo / The Sugarbeet Grower)
The recipient of the 2021 Dexter Scholarship was Jake Botkin. Botkin, a native of Corcoran, Minn., obtained his bachelor's degree from UM in 2019 and currently is working toward his master's degree in plant pathology. Botkin’s research focuses on developing a DNA-based detection method for sugarbeet Aphanomyces in soil and plant tissues. Botkin is also assembling the first-ever genome sequence of sugarbeet Aphanomyces from the Red River Valley area using long and short read sequencing methods. Botkin’s research will be useful in estimating the risk of Aphanomyces in growers’ fields and understanding the biology of the pathogen at the molecular level. Botkin is being advised by Drs. Ashok Chanda and Cory Hirsch. In his free time, Botkin enjoys growing a vegetable garden, especially species in the nightshade family, and hunting grouse, waterfowl and pheasants, and fishing in the Grand Rapids area.