Crop Nutrition

Changing Strategies in Western Sugarbeet Nitrogen Recommendations

Alan Blaylock, Ph.D.

Alan Blaylock, Ph.D.


Senior Agronomist

Dr. Alan Blaylock brings extensive North American and international experience in nutrient management to the agronomy team. University studies and service as a university extension soils specialist prepared him for a long career in the fertilizer industry. Having managed both domestic and global research and education programs, Dr. Blaylock has a wealth of experience in applying science-based nutrient management principles and products to solving practical questions. Dr. Blaylock earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in agronomy and horticulture from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in soil science from Iowa State University. He has been in agriculture his entire life — from his childhood on an irrigated farm in eastern Oregon to teaching soil science at Iowa State University to his current role as an agronomist at Nutrien. These diverse experiences helped Dr. Blaylock develop the skills to excel in translating complex scientific principles into practical solutions. Although early in his university studies he explored computer science as a profession, deep family roots in agriculture brought him back to the people and values of his heritage. His career satisfaction comes from helping others improve the performance of nutrients and cropping systems.

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Nitrogen (N) management is critical in sugarbeet production to optimize yield, profit and quality. Sugarbeet varieties and management have changed dramatically in recent decades resulting in greatly increased yields and better nitrogen utilization.

Recent evaluations of historical sugarbeet nitrogen studies in Idaho indicate changes in N-rate strategies may be in order. Traditional strategies were based on yield goals. Evidence from these evaluations suggests that following the past recommendations under current yield levels will likely oversupply N, which reduces sugarbeet quality and grower profits. Examination of existing research indicates that newer higher-yielding varieties maintain high yields and better quality with a “static”, or fixed, N rate that is independent of yield goal and is lower than may be currently used by growers. The research shows that static N rates indicated from these studies are less than 180 lbs N/acre on medium and fine-textured soils and less than 200 lbs N/acre on sandy soils.

Growers using better N and irrigation management can likely reduce rates even further and realize even greater profits. Based on the evaluations, a regional project has begun to determine if a static N management approach is more broadly appropriate and formulate revised sugarbeet N recommendations.