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Soil Sense

88 EpisodesProduced by NDSU ExtensionWebsite

Welcome to the Soil Sense Podcast, where we believe that building healthier soils is not just a prescription, but rather a pursuit. This journey requires collaboration, curiosity, and communication among farmers, agricultural researchers, agronomists, consultants, and extension. You’re going to hear… read more


Sugar Beets and Soil Health with Dan Vagle

We often talk about corn, soybeans, and small grains on this show, but those are far from the only crops focused on improving soil health. This episode is a unique look at sugar beets, and what sugar beet farmers in the Red River Valley are doing to improve their soil health. Over 11 million tons of sugar beets are harvested from the region every year, making it the number one area for the crop in the country. The soil and climate make it an ideal area for this unique crop, but also can present its own soil health challenges.

Dan Vagle is a senior agronomist for American Crystal Sugar in the northern part of the Red River Valley along the Minnesota/North Dakota border. Dan grew up on a sugar beet farm near Hallock, Minnesota, so he has very real experience in every aspect of producing this interesting crop. We discuss what’s unique about sugar beets, how soil health practices have changed over time, and how they’re using techniques like nurse crops and strip tillage to build healthier soils while still maximizing their revenue per acre.

“Sugar beets are expensive to raise. Sugar beets are expensive to harvest and the whole name of the game is being able to get your revenue per acre up. And that's your sugar percentage and that's your tonnage. It's yield, but not even yield. They get paid on the sugar that they produce as being a part of a cooperative.” - Dan Vagle

Dan suggests being very flexible with your operations to find what variables work best for your production. He is a huge advocate for pursuing sustainable practices. But he believes it’s important to share both the successes and the failures. That way farmers, agronomists, extension, researchers and consultants can all support each other through the challenges.

“There's going to be a few truths that hold through on strip till and sugar beets. Our job is to find out not so much where it works, but where it doesn't work. And that's the same way with all this stuff that's coming out right now, strip till, no till, cover crops, double cropping. The value is in the failures, not the successes….. it's the all or nothing mentality that I have to battle against. So it's the nuance. Every person is nuanced. Every farm is nuanced.” - Dan Vagle

This Week on Soil Sense:

  • Meet Dan Vagle, a senior agronomist for American Crystal Sugar
  • Discover the process and unique characteristics of sugar beet production in the Red River Valley
  • Explore Dans approach to sustainability, soil health and introducing new practices on an operation

Connect with Soil Sense

Soil Sense Podcast is hosted by Tim Hammerich of the Future of Agriculture Podcast.

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