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The American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists, Advancing Sugarbeet Research for 75 Years

Journal of Sugar Beet Research
Vol. 50 Nos. 3 & 4
The American Society of Sugar Beet
Technologists, Advancing Sugarbeet
Research for 75 Years
L.G. Campbell
and A.W. Cattanach
United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research
Service, Northern Crop Science Laboratory, Fargo, ND 58102-2765,
American Crystal Sugar Co., Moorhead, MN 56560.
Corresponding author:
Larry Campbell (
DOI: 10.5274 / jsbr.50.3.14
The American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists (ASSBT)
was created 75 years ago when a group of researchers that had
been meeting informally as the Sugarbeet Roundtable adopted
the constitution and by-laws that provided the basis for an or-
ganization that continues to foster the exchange of ideas and
information. Biennial meetings and the publication of re-
search articles have facilitated communication among the
members. Prior to the launch of the Journal of the American
Society of Sugar Beet Technology in 1956 (renamed the Jour-
nal of Sugar Beet Research in 1988), articles were published as
proceedings. All issues of the journals and proceedings were
made available to the public on the internet in 2011. Member-
ship of ASSBT increased during the first 25 years from 256 two
years after the formation of the Society to 633 on the 25th an-
niversary. Membership dropped to 550 on the 50th anniver-
sary of the Society and in recent years has been near 300.
ASSBT has facilitated the cooperation necessary for overcom-
ing numerous problems, allowing the industry to increase pro-
ductivity and remain economically viable, and is poised to
continue its role as a contributor to the future success of the
industry in a highly competitive environment.
Additional Key Words: Beet Sugar Development Foundation, Inter-
national Institute for Beet Research, Sugarbeet Roundtable.
July-Dec. 2013
ASSBT 75th Anniversary
The need for a formal organization that would facilitate communi-
cation among diverse facets of the beet sugar industry was recognized
by participants in an informal group known as “The Sugar Beet Round-
table”. T. G. Stewart (Fig. 1), an extension agronomist with Colorado
State College of Agriculture (now Colorado State University), is cred-
ited with organizing the first meeting of the Roundtable at Ft. Collins,
CO in 1935. After the second meeting of the Roundtable in 1936, re-
searchers from California were invited to join the 1937 discussions. The
process of creating a more structured national organization that would
bring together the various facets of the industry culminated on January
seventh during the closing session of the 1937 meeting (Brewbaker,
1948). At least 24 groups (Martin, 1997), including processing compa-
nies, seed companies, state universities, the U.S Department of Agri-
culture, and sugarbeet growers associations from across the United
States and Canada were represented at the 1937 Roundtable. A. W.
Skuderna (American Beet Seed Co., Rocky Ford, CO) was elected the
first president, N.R. McCreery (Great Western Sugar Co., Denver, CO),
Vice-President, and H.E. Brewbaker (USDA, Fort Collins, CO), Secre-
tary-Treasurer (Martin, 1997). A committee was assigned the task of
drafting a constitution and by-laws for discussion at the first session
of the 1938 meeting (Brew-
baker, 1948; Stewart, 1962).
The participation of represen-
tatives of the Canadian sugar
industry in the 1937 Round-
table discussions was likely
instrumental in the Society
becoming the “American Soci-
ety” with the inclusion of
Canadians as full participants
in the organization since its
inception (Martin, 1997).
The American Society of
Sugar Beet Technologist
(ASSBT) was officially created
on 13 January 1938 in Salt
Lake City, UT with the adop-
tion of a constitution and by-
laws; membership dues were
set at $1.00. Sixty-four papers,
including one presented by a
Danish researcher, were pre-
sented at the 1938 meeting
and copies of the proceedings
were sent to four libraries in
Europe in exchange for five
European or international
publications. Discussions at
Figure 1. T.G. “Guy” Stewart is
credited with being the motivational
force behind the informal 1935-37
Sugarbeet Round Table meetings
that led to the formation of ASSBT
in January 1938 (© Colorado State
University Libraries used with
Journal of Sugar Beet Research
Vol. 50 Nos. 3 & 4
Figure 2. Banquets have been a culminating event of ASSBT Bi-
ennial Meetings since 1940 (1942 PASSBT).
the Roundtable meetings were limited to breeding, agronomy, or other
phases of production research; ASSBT has included chemists and fac-
tory technologist as full participants since its beginning (Stewart,
1962). According to the original constitution, “The objective of this so-
ciety shall be to foster all phases of sugar beet and beet sugar research,
and act as a clearing house for the exchange of ideas resulting from
such work” (Anonymous, 1940; Oldemeyer, 1987). The wording of the
current mission statement ( has changed slightly
but remains primarily focused upon the original objectives. The inter-
change of ideas through the Society is credited with breaking down
many barriers between companies and leading to a free discussion of
mutual problems (Cannon, 1946; Cormany, 1954). On the occasion of
the 50th anniversary of ASSBT, President Donald Oldemeyer (1987)
contended that the value of ASSBT in fostering cooperation among fed-
eral, state, and private researchers which, in turn contributes to the co-
hesiveness and survival of the industry, could not be overemphasized.
ASSBT has not only fostered exchanges among its North American
members but also has facilitated communication with colleagues in Eu-
rope. As early as 1940, the membership rolls included three European
researchers (Brewbaker, 1940). Furthermore, a notification of the
ASSBT meeting and greetings were sent via cablegram to the IIRB (In-
ternational Institute for Beet Research, Brussels, Belgium) during the
inaugural ASSBT meeting in 1938. The regular attendance of IIRB rep-
resentatives at ASSBT meetings is evidence of an enduring productive
relationship between IIRB and ASSBT. The feasibility of a joint ASSBT-
IIRB meeting was considered in 1960 and ASSBT sent an official dele-
gation of five to the first joint meeting of the two organizations in
London, England in 1961 (Stewart, 1962). In 1963 a delegation of
July-Dec. 2013
ASSBT 75th Anniversary
ASSBT members were guests of an IIRB hosted tour of the European
sugarbeet industry, and two years later, a delegation representing IIRB
toured some U.S. production areas as guests of ASSBT. A second
ASSBT group toured Denmark and Sweden in 1969 and ASSBT hosted
a tour of some of the production areas of the U.S. by IIRB members in
1973 (Martin, 1997). Since 1973, ASSBT has sponsored three visits to
IIRB meetings in Europe; (1) the 1991 summer meeting in Bologna,
Italy followed by a tour of sugarbeet areas in Germany and The Nether-
lands, (2) the 1995 meeting in Beaune, France followed by a tour of Mo-
rocco and Spain, and (3) the 1997 meeting in Cambridge, England that
concluded with tours in Sweden and Denmark (Martin, 1997). The
first, and to date only, joint IIRB-ASSBT Congress was convened 26
February 2003 in San Antonio, TX (Gebhard et al., 2003).
Between 37 and 140 sugarbeet researchers participated in the 1935
to 1937 Roundtable discussions that preceded the formation of ASSBT.
Two years after the formation of ASSBT, the organization had 256
members (Brewbaker, 1940). Membership had increased to 354 on the
tenth anniversary (Cannon, 1946) of the formation of ASSBT and re-
gional meetings were held in Detroit, MI and Salt Lake City, UT. On
its twenty-fifth anniversary (Stewart, 1962), ASSBT had 633 members
representing 35 states and 20 countries and the Society’s Journal was
distributed to 59 countries. Membership dropped to 550 on the fiftieth
anniversary (Oldemeyer, 1987) of ASSBT and is currently about 300 as
it celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary.
Formal communication among members occurs through oral and
poster presentations at bien-
nial meetings, published pro-
ceedings of the meetings,
articles relevant to the indus-
try in a peer-reviewed journal,
and through on-line web-sites
that allow unrestricted access
to all society publications. Bi-
ennial meetings were held in
or near sugarbeet production
areas in the midwinter prior to
1968 (a list of all meeting sites,
1938-2013, is available at bsdf- Having to en-
dure temperatures that never
exceeded 0
F during the 1966
meeting in Minneapolis, MN
prompted the scheduling of fu-
ture meetings at warmer more
southern sites, according to ru-
mors (Martin, 1997). There
was no meeting in 1944, be-
cause of war-time restrictions
Figure 3. James H. Fischer, served
as first permanent Secretary-Trea-
surer of ASSBT from 1952 to 1987
(JSBR 32 (4)).
Journal of Sugar Beet Research
Vol. 50 Nos. 3 & 4
and the meeting scheduled for 1980 was delayed until the winter of
1981 because of severe economic problems in the industry; all other
meetings have occurred at two-year intervals. The only biennial meet-
ing convened outside the borders of the U.S. was the 31th Biennial
Meeting in Vancouver, BC, in 2001. Banquets that provide a forum for
recognizing members who have made extraordinary contributions to
the Society and foster camaraderie among the members have been a
fitting culmination of the Biennial Meetings since 1940 (Fig. 2).
Prior to 1956, all research reports were published as proceedings of
the biennial meetings (PASSBT). The first two volumes (1938 and
1940) were distributed to members as mimeographed reports, primarily
because of limited funds. With the exception of 1944, from 1942 to 1954
the proceedings were compiled in book form. Publication of the 1942
Proceedings was underwritten by the U.S. Beet Sugar Association
($2,550) and the Farmers and Manufacturers Beet Sugar Association
($450) (Cormany, 1946). There were no meetings in 1944; hence, no pro-
ceedings were published. After its launch in 1956, the Journal of the
American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists (JASSBT) became the
principal ASSBT publication for distribution of research results.
JASSBT was renamed the Journal of Sugar Beet Research (JSBR) in
1988. James Fischer edited the JASSBT for many years in conjunction
with his responsibilities as Secretary-Treasurer of ASSBT. Susan Mar-
tin replaced Fischer as Editor and since then three members have
served as Journal Editors, Alan Dexter, Larry Campbell, and Lee
Panella, with the assistance of
Figure 4. Stephen Reynolds, hired
in 1986 to work with Fischer prior
to assuming full responsibilities as
many Associate Editors and
anonymous expert reviewers. It
is in the spirit of the founders
ASSBT Secretary-Treasurer in 1987. that the publications of the
ASSBT are now accessible with-
out charge to the general public
on recently established web-
sites (Panella, et al., 2011).
These sites provide access to all
issues of JASSBT and JSBR
(, and the pro-
ceedings of the first (1938) to
the thirty-sixth (2011) biennial
meetings (assbt- Since 1993,
abstracts of papers presented at
the biennial meetings have
been published in JSBR. The
sites allow users to search by
topic or author. This enhance-
ment of communication among
sugarbeet researchers world-
wide will, in turn, complement
July-Dec. 2013
ASSBT 75th Anniversary
a longtime objective of ASSBT, that of “producing more sugar per acre
at decreased cost” (Coke, 1942; Oldemeyer, 1987).
ASSBT has established four award categories to recognize members
whose contributions to the industry and/or Society are substantial. The
Forty-Year Veteran Award
recognizes any individual, member or
nonmember, whose service has benefited the industry for 40 years. The
Meritorious Service Award
acknowledges members “who have been
outstanding in promoting the objectives of the Society, or have made
significant contributions to the beet sugar industry”. Those elected to
Honorary Membership
“have rendered outstanding service to the
beet sugar industry or have by virtue of scientific accomplishment ac-
quired the admiration and respect of this Society”. The most presti-
gious award the Society offers is the
Savitsky Memorial Award
named in honor of Viacheslav and Helen Savitsky (McFarlane, 1993).
The Savitsky Award recognizes those who “have excelled in either sci-
entific advancement in the field of sugar technology, or service and ded-
ication to the sugar industry”. Only seven individuals have received the
Savitsky Memorial Award; Richard A. McGinnis (Spreckels Sugar Co.)
in 1991, James H. Fischer (BSDF) in 1995, James E. Duffus (USDA-
ARS, Salinas, CA) in 2001, Marius Christian George Middelburg (van
der Have) in 2003, Alan G. Dexter in 2007 (North Dakota State Uni-
versity and University of Minnesota), and Alvin W. Erichsen (Holly Hy-
brids) and Robert T. Lewellen (USDA-ARS, Salinas, CA) in 2009.
Current and past award recipients are listed at
ASSBT shares many com-
mon objectives with and has
benefited from a close associa-
tion with the Beet Sugar Devel-
opment Foundation (BSDF).
BSDF was chartered under the
laws of Colorado in July 1945.
At that time, it was primarily
concerned with mechanizing
sugarbeet production (Cannon,
1946). BSDF membership con-
sists of sugarbeet processing
companies and seed companies.
“The BSDF is dedicated to the
advancement of sugarbeet pro-
duction and beet sugar process-
ing through science based
research and leading educa-
tional programs” (bsdf- BSDF financed the
publication of the proceedings
of the 1946 ASSBT meeting
(Cormany, 1948) and through-
Figure 5. Thomas K. Schwartz,
current Executive Vice-President of
ASSBT, a position he has held since
Journal of Sugar Beet Research
Vol. 50 Nos. 3 & 4
Figure 6. Mechanization of sugarbeet production, particularly har-
vest operations, was a high priority during ASSBT’s first ten years
(from inside the cover of the1946 PASSBT).
July-Dec. 2013
ASSBT 75th Anniversary
out the years since has provided supplemental funding for many of the
research projects managed by members of ASSBT, and others. James
H. Fischer (Fig. 3) was the first paid Secretary-Treasurer of BSDF, orig-
inally hired while an engineering student on a part-time basis in Jan-
uary 1947 and on a full-time basis in 1948; he held the position for 40
years (Oldemeyer, 1987; Martin, 1997). Beginning in 1952, Fischer also
served jointly as Secretary-Treasurer of ASSBT and was a major force
behind the 1956 launch of the Journal of the American Society of Sugar
Beet Technologists (Anonymous; 1995). Fischer also is recognized for
facilitating the transition of ASSBT to a non-profit corporation under
the laws of Colorado in 1985 (Munroe, 1985). Stephen Reynolds (Fig. 4)
was hired in 1986, initially to work with Fischer and then assume full
responsibilities upon Fisher’s retirement in 1987. Reynolds served as
Secretary-Treasurer until his departure in 1988. Thomas Schwartz
(Fig. 5) was hired to replace Reynolds in September 1988 and has pro-
moted the objectives of and guided BSDF and ASSBT since. Schwartz’s
title was changed to Executive Vice-President to more accurately reflect
the executive duties of the office (Martin, 1997). Schwartz was instru-
mental in updating the Journal format, including changing the Jour-
nal’s name and logo, in 1988 and more recently the efforts to establish
the on-line presence of the Journal.
History documents the fact that the beet sugar industry has faced
many challenges, some from natural sources and others from public
policy decisions and perceived health concerns. Protected by a 1.685
cent per pound tariff (Surface, 1910), the U.S. sugar industry flourished
in the 10-year period following 1896. The pending elimination of the
tariff probably would have been a death blow to the industry had it not
been for the increase in domestic food production prompted by World
War I (Coke, 1942; Cannon, 1946). During the Second World War, a sim-
ilar need for a reliable domestic sugar supply benefitted the industry
(Coke, 1942; Marshall, 1948). Immigration policy that limited the avail-
ability of Mexican nationals was cited as a problem that would compli-
cate weed control in sugarbeet fields in the presidential address at the
1964 ASSBT Biennial Meeting (Rorabaugh, 1964). While government
policies affect the well-being of the industry and may impact the re-
sources available for research and the nature of the research conducted,
ASSBT, as a society, is not directly involved in molding policy.
Although specific research objectives change over the years, ASSBT
and its members always have focused on increasing productivity, re-
ducing costs, and adapting new technology to old problems. A priority
topic at the 1940 meeting was the standardization of experimental
methods (Doxtator et al., 1940). Mechanization of all facets of produc-
tion, but particularly harvesting (Fig. 6), was emphasized during the
first 10 years of ASSBT (Smith, 1950). Cannon (1946) credits the 1945
meeting of sugar company executives to discuss mechanization that led
to the founding of the BSDF to the cooperation of researchers fostered
by ASSBT. In 1983, ASSBT created the Sugarbeet Crop Advisory Com-
mittee (now the Crop Germplasm Committee CGC) to represent the
Journal of Sugar Beet Research
Vol. 50 Nos. 3 & 4
sugarbeet germplasm user community (Panella and Lewellen, 2007).
The CGC is a self-sustaining group that advises the USDA-ARS Na-
tional Plant Germplasm System and ASSBT on matters related to sug-
arbeet germplasm collection, availability, evaluation, and enhancement.
Diseases, insect, and weed control issues have changed over time but
remain a constant threat to production. Fertilizer management, tillage
options, seedling emergence, and other management practices have
been frequent topics at ASSBT meetings and continually require re-
finement as new equipment, varieties, and knowledge becomes avail-
able. Postharvest storage losses have been recognized by ASSBT as a
problem at least since 1946 (Cannon, 1946). Improving sucrose extrac-
tion rates and the efficiencies of factories has been and continues to be
a high priority. Public policy decisions that will affect profitability re-
main unpredictable. Diseases and insect pests are occurring with in-
creased intensity in some areas and show no sign of diminishing. The
optimization of precision agriculture technologies to specific environ-
ments will enhance production efficiency. Remaining competitive in a
global economy will require the continuation of the productive cooper-
ation between industry and public research institutions that has been
facilitated for the past 75 years by ASSBT. ASSBT will remain a strong,
effective, vehicle for this cooperation as long as it keeps the vision of
its founders and those who have followed as its mission.
The use of trade, firm, or corporate names is for the information and
convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an endorsement
or approval by the Agricultural Research Service of any product or serv-
ice to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. USDA is an equal
opportunity provider and employer.
Anonymous. 1940. Constitution and by-laws of the American Society
of Sugar Beet Technologist as revised at the second general
meeting. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 2: 339-341.
Anonymous. 1995. Savitsky memorial Award: James H. Fischer.
J.Sugar Beet Res. 32 (4).
Brewbaker, H.E. 1940. Report of the secretary. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar
Beet Technol. 2: 331-332.
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July-Dec. 2013
ASSBT 75th Anniversary
Cannon, W.Y. 1946. Presidents report. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Tech-
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Tolman. 1940. Report of committee on standardization of ex-
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der. 2003. Sugar beet research
and development: a prerequisite for a sustainable beet-sugar
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TX, 27 Feb. 1 March 2003: p. 23-34.
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for the exchange of ideas. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol.
Rorabaugh, G. 1964. Presidential address. J. Am. Sugar Beet Technol.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
The development of sugar beet as an economically important field crop coincided with our increased understanding of modern genetic principles. It was developed in the late 1700s from white fodder beet; therefore, the genetic base of sugar beet is thought to be narrower than many open-pollinated crops. The wild sea beet is the progenitor of all domesticated beet and cross compatible with cultivated beet (domestic and cultivated are given subspecies level in the same species). The breeding system of sugar beet is complex and the crop is biennial, which lengthens the generation time to almost 1 year. A genetic-cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) system is utilized for commercial hybrid production. Early breeding objectives were to improve the concentration and extractability of sucrose and little emphasis was placed on host-plant resistance to insect, nematode, and disease pests. As production areas expanded, these pests limited production, sometimes severely. The first systematic attempts to screen exotic and wild beet germplasm for disease resistance were initiated early in the 20th century. Many undesirable traits from wild beet were reportedly introgressed with the selected disease resistance and it was only in the late 1900s that the use of wild beet genetic resources became common place in public breeding programs. In North America, a pivotal development in utilizing the genetic resources available for sugar beet breeding was the formation in 1983 of the Sugarbeet Crop Germplasm Committee (CGC). Since the Sugarbeet CGC identified enhancing the commercial sugar beet germplasm pool as a high priority, there has been an aggressive evaluation of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) Beta collection. This collection now has more than 2500 accessions from within the genus Beta. In 2002, it was estimated that close to 25,000 evaluation data points (descriptors x accessions evaluated) describing the collection were available in the Genetic Resources Information Network (GRIN) database. Over 3000 evaluations described levels of resistance of sugar beet and wild beet accessions to 10 major disease and insect pests of sugar beet. As soon as the evaluation data are collected, they are used to select the sources for the pre-breeding programs. There is a lag time in sugar beet of 8-15 years between starting a germplasm development program and releasing the first germplasm, but successes of this program are available in the germplasm released to the commercial breeders. Resistance genes from wild beet for rhizomania and beet cyst nematode resistance have been commercialized.
Savitsky memorial Award: James H. Fischer
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Report of the secretary
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Brewbaker, H.E. 1940. Report of the secretary. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 2: 331-332.
The American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists
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Brewbaker, H.E. 1948. The American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 5: 2-9.
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Cannon, W.Y. 1946. Presidents report. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 4: 11-16.
A research opportunity
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Coke, J.E. 1942. A research opportunity. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 3: 11-14.
Report of the secretary
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Cormany, C.E. 1946. Report of the secretary. Proc. Am. Soc. Sugar Beet Technol. 4: 676-677.