Two-Year Down Force Study in Sugar Beets in SwitzerlandAGCO puts farmers first, and that means discovering ways to unlock yield potential while farming more efficiently and sustainably. AGCO’s Agronomy and Advanced Farm Solutions team is hard at work bringing the latest research from fields around the globe to the farmers who feed the world. Check back every Tuesday for a new agronomic research study as the team explores different crops, equipment, pathogens, and growing practices.
The objective of this study was to apply different planter down force using the DeltaForce™ automatic down force control system and evaluate the resulting yield in sugar beets.
The study was carried out on the Swiss Future Farm (Tänikon, Canton of Thurgau) and on a commercial farm in Northeastern Switzerland (Tägerwilen, Canton of Thurgau) as a side-by-side strip trial in 2019 and 2020. The following down force (DF) settings were tested:
- Auto DF Light (23 kg / 50 lbs)
- Auto DF Standard (45 kg / 100 lbs)
- Auto DF Heavy (68 kg / 150 lbs)
- Fixed DF (45 kg / 100 lbs)
All trial strips were planted at 3.8 cm (1.5 in) deep with a planting rate of 100,000 seeds per hectare (40,500 per acre). All plots were planted in the last week of March and first week of April.
The trial plots in the two locations were harvested in October or November in each study year.
Automatic Standard DF with 98.7 t / ha (44.7 tons*/acre) had a slight yield advantage of 1.7% and 2.5% over Automatic Light and Heavy DF, respectively (Figure 1). The lowest fresh mass yield in the comparison was obtained from trial strips planted with Fixed DF, 89.5 t / ha (40.6 tons / ac), so a yield increase of 7.0-9.3% can be generated when planting with automatic down force applied by Precision Planting DeltaForce instead of conventional fixed down force.
Figure 1. Fresh mass yield results of the Swiss Crop Tour 2019-2020 Down Force Study in sugar beets.
The highest sugar content of 17.4% was obtained with Automatic Heavy and Light DF settings, whereas Auto Standard DF and Fixed DF had a lower sugar content of 17.2% (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Sugar content results of the Swiss Crop Tour 2019-2020 Down Force Study in sugar beets.
In the average of study years, automatic down force settings provided the highest sugar yield in the comparison, ranging between 14.6 t / ha (6.6 tons/acre) with Auto DF Light and 15.1 t / ha (6.8 tons/ acre) with Auto DF Standard, whereas significantly lower sugar yield of 13.7 t / ha (6.2 tons / acre) was obtained from the trial strips planted with fixed down force (Figure 3).
In our study, the increase in sugar yield that can be generated by planting with automatic down force applied by Precision Planting DeltaForce instead of conventional fixed down force amounts to 6.2-9.3%.
Figure 3. Sugar yield results of the Swiss Crop Tour 2019-2020 Down Force Study in sugar beets.
During the two study years, field emergence was measured twice in the growth period until the six-leaf stage (emergence data in Fixed DF plots were not available for 2020). Although yield differences were distinct, results from crop measurements show very satisfactory field emergence of around 90% at the second measurements for all applied down force settings (Figure 4). In three out of four trial plots, increased down force of ³45 kg (100 lbs) was beneficial to enable faster sugar beet emergence, and a higher share of late emerging plants were found in the 23 kg (50 lb) Auto Light DF trial strips. In the dry spring periods of 2019 and 2020, more firming was required to create sufficient seed to soil contact to support germination.
Figure 4. Field emergence results of the Swiss Crop Tour 2019-2020 Down Force Study in sugar beets.
Recommendations and Equipment Solutions:
Figure 5. Precision Planting test planter equipped with DeltaForce down force control system on the trial plot.
In an overall consideration of the study years and locations, the additional total revenue due to planting with automatic down force using the Precision Planting DeltaForce system in sugar beets on average is 576-609 CHF** / ha ($247-262 USD / ac) (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Revenue obtained from the Swiss Crop Tour 2019-2020 Down Force Study trial strips in sugar beets.
Assumptions for payback:
The assumptions on payback are based on the conditions in the Swiss Sugar Beet Growing and Delivery Agreement 2021 between Schweizer Zucker AG and the Swiss Sugar Beet Growers Association.
Sugar beet basic price: CHF 45.00 / ton ($53 USD / ton)
Surcharge or deduction per ton sugar beet per 0.1 % sugar content:
<15%: – CHF 0.35 ($0.41 USD)
15.0-16.0%: CHF 0.00 (basic price without surcharge or deduction)
>16%: + CHF 0.35 ($0.41 USD)
Surcharge or deduction per ton sugar beet for technical yield:
<85.5 %: – CHF 0.20 ($0.23 USD)
85.5% to 87.5%: CHF 0.00
>87.5%: + CHF 0.10 ($0.12 USD)
Surcharge or deduction per ton sugar beet for soil residue:
<8%: + CHF 1.00 ($1.17 USD / ton)
8% to 12%: CHF 0.00
>12%: – CHF 1.00 ($1.17 USD / ton)
Nils Zehner, AGCO Agronomist, Swiss Future Farm.
Connect with Nils on LINKEDIN.
*T / ha or Tons / hectare refers to metric / long tons while tons / acre refers to short tons.
**CHF is the abbreviation for Swiss Francs. The conversion rate to U.S. dollars used is 1CHF = $1.06 USD. In some of the calculations which include area, hectares to acres has also been calculated.