Director of research and agronomy at Michigan Sugar Company a leader in helping sugarbeet farmers implement sustainable growing practices

LANSING – The Nature Conservancy in Michigan (TNC) today announced Corey Guza, Ph.D., director of research and agronomy for Michigan Sugar Company, as the recipient of the organization’s 2022 Conservation Excellence Agribusiness Award. The award was presented Tuesday, Jan. 10, during the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s 90th annual Winter Conference and Trade Show at The Lansing Center.

“At The Nature Conservancy, we are proud to partner with innovators across the agriculture sector to help implement healthy soil practices that grow better crops, improve water quality, and help protect fields against severe weather events like drought and downpours,” said Ben Wickerham, agriculture program director for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “Corey has been a leading voice in supporting sustainable sugarbeet farming practices and his efforts have made an indelible impact on Michigan agriculture.”

Last year, TNC, in partnership with Michigan Sugar, received a $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help offset costs for farmers who want to implement strip tillage on their sugarbeet farms. Over the next four years, TNC and Michigan Sugar will work to convert up to 10 sugarbeet farms in the Saginaw Valley to strip tillage and treat more than 6,000 acres with strip till and cover crops.

“My focus on sustainability at Michigan Sugar Company has been studying production practices that improve sugarbeet production and profitability in an environmentally sound manner. The focus in this area includes studying nutrient management and the relationship between nutrients, the environment, and sugarbeet production,” Guza said. “It is an honor to be recognized by The Nature Conservancy and I accept this award on behalf of the entire Michigan Sugar team that is working toward a more sustainable future. It truly is a team effort.”

Guza was raised on a sugarbeet, dry bean, corn, soybean, wheat, and dairy farm near Harbor Beach. He earned his bachelor’s degree in crop and soil sciences from Michigan State University, his master’s degree in crop science from Oregon State University, and his doctorate in crop and soil sciences focused on extension and studying the relationship between corn and weeds from MSU.

He came to work as an agronomist at Michigan Sugar in 2003. He later worked for Winfield United, a division of Land O’Lakes, as a region agronomist covering Michigan, Ontario, Quebec, and parts of Ohio and Indiana. He returned to Michigan Sugar in the fall of 2016 as the director of agronomy.

During his time at Michigan Sugar, Guza has worked with staff to identify research opportunities, evaluate data, and assist field consultants and growers with educational training and support. His long-time support for, and dedication to Saginaw Valley farmers, has positioned him as a trusted advisor to both sugarbeet growers and his research peers.

“Corey has spent more than a decade supporting Michigan’s sugarbeet growers and we have no doubt his efforts will be felt by generations of family farmers,” said James Ruhlman, chief operating officer at Michigan Sugar Company. “The sugarbeet industry is quickly becoming a champion for sustainable agriculture, and here in Michigan that credit goes to Corey, along with our world class research and agronomy team, and our farming families.”

Last year, Guza led Michigan Sugar in co-developing a conservation proposal that netted nearly $1 million to support education and training, promotion, and technical assistance for the adoption of climate-smart practices in Michigan’s sugarbeet-growing region. These efforts will help the cooperative better estimate climate-smart practice benefits within sugarbeet production.

Guza also has been advancing Michigan Sugar’s sustainability mission through the exploration of conservation-related research trials, including using compost as a nematode deterrent, rye cover crops as an invasive weed deterrent, and multiple 4R-related fertilizer application methods for sugarbeets.    

“I applaud Corey and Michigan Sugar Company for earning this recognition,” said Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, and a member of The Nature Conservancy in Michigan’s Board of Trustees. “I want to thank them for their commitment to advancing Michigan agriculture, partnering with farmers and organizations such as The Nature Conservancy to advance on-farm stewardship.”