Fodder beet is a demanding crop but if managed properly can be extremely high yielding. Attention to detail in preparation prior to, during and following sowing is critical to ensure good results.

Pre-sowing

Paddock selection is important. Fodder beet requires a weed free, firm, fine, moist seedbed that is well drained with no sub-soil compaction and a soil pH greater than 6.0. Ideally pH should be corrected 6-12 months before sowing. Fodder beet is sensitive to certain residual chemicals with active ingredients such as Aminopyralid, Picloram, Oxyfluren, Chlorsulfuron or Atrazine. Make sure with-holding periods for these chemicals are observed.

Spray paddocks out 6 weeks before sowing and cultivate to achieve a fine, firm seedbed. For best results general soil fertility should be in optimum ranges and base fertiliser to be incorporated into the soil.

Sowing

Sowing is best in late September to mid-November when soil temperatures are 10° C or more. Sowing at lower soil temperatures can cause staggered germination which can impact on weed control, and can also cause plants to vernalise, resulting in plants bolting. Fodder beet should be precision drilled. Recommended sowing rate is 80,000 – 100,000 seeds per hectare, sown to
a depth of 2cm, with a 45-50cm row width and 15-20cm plant spacings within the row.

Post sowing

A pre-emergent herbicide, applied immediately after sowing is highly recommended. Fodder beet crops must be monitored frequently through the establishment phase. Timely weed control is essential for good yield results. It can be difficult to decide on when to spray a crop, particularly if germination is slow or uneven. Seek experienced Agrochemical advice on this.

Establishing fodder beet is susceptible to insect pests such as slugs, nysius, cutworm and springtail. These insects need to be monitored frequently and controlled with the use of the appropriate insecticides. Depending on timing you may be able to collaborate your herbicide and insecticide applications, but be wary of delaying one for the sake of the other.

Apply 2-3 side dressings of Nitrogen 4-5 weeks apart. Consider adding Potassium to you last Nitrogen side dressing.

Developed fodder beet plants are relatively tolerant of most brassica pests, although aphids need to be monitored and controlled as they damage the plant and also carry and spread disease.
Continue to monitor crops for fungal disease and apply fungicide if deemed appropriate.

Remove any bolters (plants that go to seed head), as the shed ‘hard’ seed can last many years in the soil, contaminating ensuing crops.

Grazing management

Before grazing it is important to get your crop yield measured so you have an idea of how much feed is available to help work out your break sizes. Acidosis can occur if animals are not restricted in the amount of fodder beet they consume over the first few days.

It is very important that animals are transitioned very carefully on to fodder beet over the first 14 days, slowly increasing their ration. Ensure adequate water and supplement is available. Fodder beet should be fed to stock at no more than approx. 70% of their ration.