Sugar Beets to be Grown Across Nebraska in Agronomy Project


Sugar beet in a field. Courtesy Photo

By Chabella Guzman, PREEC Communications

The Nebraska Extension 4-H and Open Class entries have seen many special projects over the years, from dry edible beans to sorghum and broom corn. This year, Nebraska Extension and 4-H’s Special Agronomy Project for 2024 is sugar beets. The project is held across the state, in the Panhandle, where sugar beets are a staple crop, and in eastern Nebraska, where they are not typically grown.   

“The beets can be shown in either open class or 4-H,” said Laurie Ziterkopf, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener. “They just need to bring in three roots and some leaves. They should check the (fair) book for details on cutting and how many leaves to display at the fair.”

While sugar beets are planted earlier than some crops, they are not harvested until after most fairs are complete in September. “We know they (beets) will be immature, but even in July, farmers are out checking their beets, digging up a few plants, and checking the sugar content. So, our beet entries will be judged on how true they are to variety,” Zitterkopf said. 

The Special Agronomy Project in Scotts Bluff County is also collaborating with Western Sugar in Scottsbluff. 

“Western Sugar is excited to have sugar beets be the special agronomy project for Nebraska 4-H in 2024,” said Michael Relka, Western Sugar agronomist. “Sugar beets are a crop that’s been grown in the western Nebraska area for over 100 years and is processed at the Scottsbluff factory into sugar.” 

Relka has suggestions for those participating in the project. They should begin planting their beet seeds now, as April is the month that sugar beets are usually planted in the fields. The ideal beet is harvested for its sugar content in the below-ground root system. “They also need an adequate area for the roots to grow when participants are looking to start their seedlings.” 

The Special Garden and Agronomy Project Seed Pick-Up Day is Tuesday, April 23, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Nebraska Extension Scotts Bluff County office in the Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center West Foyer. Princess India Nasturtium seeds and sugar beet seeds will be available for pick up. If you haven’t already, register for the project while picking up the seeds. 

Growers will also be able to pick up seeds from previous years’ projects, including the 2011 Striped Armenian Cucumber, 2012 Firecracker Sunflower (Similar), 2013 Amethyst Bean, 2014 Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth, 2015 White Satin Carrot, 2016 Jazzy Mix Zinnia, 2017 Sunburst Squash (Similar), 2018 Delft Blue Nigella, 2019 Carmine Splendor Okra, 2020 Classic Magic Bachelor Buttons, 2021 Hakurei Turnip, and 2022 Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil.

For more information on the special projects contact your local county extension.