Academic research important to sugar beet growers

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BILLINGS – Last week the Montana and Wyoming Malted Barley and Sugar Beet Symposium was held in Billings. And like other segments of U.S. agriculture, barley and sugar beet growers eagerly await the latest research and technology available to help solve disease problems for healthier crops, which increases the overall production and profitability.

“MSU and other land-grant universities have done a terrific job of addressing some of these issues with research-based experiments or experiments that will provide this information that growers can use,” said Oscar Perez-Hernandez, MSU Extension Row Crop Pathologist. “It’s not just an observation, but it’s based on research. So I think universities are key and what plant pathologists for sugar beets, potatoes and other major crops have done to understand the importance of disease and how diseases affect crops and yields. This was the key.

For producers like Ric Rodriguez of Powell, Wyo., the symposium has been instrumental in helping them meet both the challenges and opportunities of the sugar industry.

“You can go back 10 or 15 years with just Roundup Ready beets when this technology came along,” Rodriguez said. “It was a game-changer for the beet industry. And now we have started to look at sustainability. We have customers for our companies who want to know that stuff. So these kind of meetings are good for disseminating this information to educate our people.

Symposia like this are also important to consumers, whether they know it or not.

“Many people, especially in urban environments, know little about where their food comes from…” Perez-Hernandez said. “So what we do really plays a big role in what we eat. We can get rid of our cell phone, we can get rid of our television, we can get rid of a vehicle, but we can’t do without food. Food production is essential.

There are 10,000 family farmers in the 11 sugar beet producing states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming).

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