Corn Production following a Sugar Beet Crop

June 1, 2020

Corn-Following-Sugarbeets Syndrome (CFSS) may occur when corn is planted after a sugar beet crop, particularly in flooded or saturated fields during extended cool temperatures. Additionally, CFSS can occur because of the high amounts of water and nitrogen required to produce sugarbeets, and the soil compaction that can be associated with sugar beet production. The syndrome has symptoms resembling corn following fallowed ground or fallow syndrome (FS). Fields demonstrating CFSS or FS exhibit phosphorus (P) (Figure 1) and zinc (Zn) (Figure 2) deficiencies.1

Genetic stripe in corn
Figure 2. Corn plant exhibiting zinc deficiency. Picture courtesy of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and its IPNI Crop Nutrient Deficiency Image Collection, Dr. Gurupada Balol.

Corn is dependent on a symbiotic relationship with vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) fungi because of their ability to assist in the absorption of water and non-mobile P and Zn. The VAM fungi grow inside and outside of the roots. External hyphae (long filamentous branches) of VAM fungi can be much longer than plant roots and serve as root extensions to aid in the uptake of water and nutrients. When fields are absent of crops or weed growth, the population of VAM fungi can decrease because they cannot survive in the absence of acceptable (most grass species) root tissue. In addition to sugar beets, VAM fungi are also unable to survive in the presence of brassica roots (canola, cabbage, broccoli).2

An additional factor for the severity of symptoms is that most P taken up by sugar beet roots is returned to the soil during harvest leaf mowing. The leaf tissue rapidly decomposes and much of the P is returned to the next crop in an organic P form. North Dakota State University believes that some growth drag also occurs with soybean and small grains produced after a sugar beet crop, but the drag is small, and no symptoms have been observed.2

If corn is to be grown, 150 lb/acre of 11-52-0 (MAP) or equivalent P rates of other fertilizers in a 2x2 inch band should be applied.2 Safe rates of in-furrow fertilizers are not enough to overcome the lack of mycorrhiza and provide early season P nutrition to corn.2


1Stahl, L. 2014. Reduce risk of fallow or flooded soil syndrome with cover crops. Univesity of Minnesota. http://blog-crop-news.extension.edu.

2Franzen, D. and Ransom, J. 2018. Fallow syndrome after sugarbeet. Crop & Pest Report. North Dakota State University. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/.

Web sites verified 3/19/2020.

Derek Crompton


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