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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.00231

Crop rotational effects on yield formation in current sugar beet production – results from a farm survey and field trials

 Heinz-Josef Koch1*, Kerrin Trimpler2, Anna Jacobs3 and  Nicol Stockfisch2
  • 1Agronomy, Institut für Zuckerrübenforschung (IfZ), Germany
  • 2System analysis, Institut für Zuckerrübenforschung (IfZ), Germany
  • 3Thuenen Institut Braunschweig, Germany

In Europe, the framework for sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.) production was subject to considerable changes and for the future it is expected that sugar beet cultivation might concentrate around the sugar factories for economic reasons. Based on data from a national sugar beet farmers’ survey and multi-year crop rotation trials, the effects of cropping interval (number of years in between two subsequent sugar beet crops) and of preceding crops on sugar yield were elucidated under current Central European management conditions. The dominating sugar beet cropping interval was ≥4 years in the farm survey with pronounced differences between regions. However, the cropping intervals 2, 3 and ≥4 years did not affect the sugar yield. Therefore, significant differences in sugar yield between regions were assumed to be caused by multiple interactions between year, site and farmers’ skills. Throughout Germany, the dominating preceding crops in sugar beet cultivation were winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and winter barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). In the field trials, the sugar yield was 5% higher after pea (Pisum sativum L.) compared to maize (Zea mais L.) as preceding crop, while differences between the preceding crops pea and winter wheat, and wheat and maize were not significant. Repeated measurements of canopy development and leaf color during the growing season revealed a higher N-availability after pea as preceding crop. However, decreased growth after maize was not completely compensated for by high N-fertilizer doses. Overall, the causes for the differences in sugar yield between the preceding crops remained open. The results do not support concerns about substantial yield losses in sugar beet production due to a reduction in the cropping interval from 3 to 2 years. Nevertheless, short rotations with maize and sugar beet might increase the risk of Rhizoctonia solani crown and root rot infestation. Leguminous crops such as pea offer the potential for higher sugar beet yield with lower N-fertilizer doses.

Keywords: Crop rotation, Cropping interval, Preceding crop, Nitrogen, Sugar yield

Received: 29 Nov 2017; Accepted: 09 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Piergiorgio Stevanato, Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy

Reviewed by:

Robert J. French, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Australia
Chiara Broccanello, Consultant, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 Koch, Trimpler, Jacobs and Stockfisch. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Heinz-Josef Koch, Institut für Zuckerrübenforschung (IfZ), Agronomy, Holtenser Landstr. 77, Göttingen, 37079, Germany,