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Published October 16, 2009, 07:19 PM

Local sugar beet harvest about half done

The weather hasn’t cooperated much with this year’s sugar beet harvest, but a local American Crystal Sugar Co. official said more than half the beets were in by Friday.

By: Ryan Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

The weather hasn’t cooperated much with this year’s sugar beet harvest, but a local American Crystal Sugar Co. official said more than half the beets were in by Friday.

Jerry Christenson, agronomy manager for the East Grand Forks to Crookston district, said most growers north of Grand Forks are 75 to 85 percent done.

“Two to three more good days, and most of those guys are finished,” he said.

But many growers are only half done south of U.S. Highway 2, he said. That means they need about 10 good days of work before they will finish.

Christenson said officials are hoping harvest in the region will be completely done within two weeks — which will be about the one-month mark of work, which started Sept. 30. “It all depends on the weather,” he said.

Normal harvest takes three to four weeks, he said, so things have just been a little slower than normal. Work was stopped Tuesday morning because of below-freezing temperatures. If beets are taken out of the ground in those conditions, they won’t store well.

But the harvest will likely resume today or Sunday, he said. “Once we get started, it’s all up to the weather forecast.”

Harvest conditions have been even worse in the southern Red River Valley, Christenson said, because fields are wetter. Beet factories in Moorhead and Hillsboro, N.D., are only about one-third finished with this year’s work because of the extra soil moisture.

More snowfall could slow down the harvest because it makes everything greasy and slippery, but he said the weather seemed to be improving Friday.

“I see the sun right now,” Christenson said. “I think that’s what it is because I haven’t seen it for so long.”

Better weather

Much of the region should get a break from the dreary, colder-than-average weather that has dominated October, according to the National Weather Service. Grand Forks has already seen 0.7 inches of snow this month, compared to the trace amount usually observed by Oct. 16.

Thermometers should hit 46 degrees today, as a passing system clears the cloud cover, allowing for a mostly sunny but windy day, meteorologist Nancy Godon said. Even the expected low tonight of 37 degrees is warmer than some of the high temperatures seen earlier this month.

She said Sunday looks like it will be a nice day — temperatures should reach the mid-50s, and the low is only expected to reach 41 degrees.

There is a slight chance of showers Sunday night, stretching into stronger chances of rain Monday and Tuesday. But Godon said that system is still far away so the actual intensity and days it will rain next week are hard to predict at this point.

Still, the region could get a break from the rain by the middle of next week, and temperatures are predicted to stay above 40 degrees for the week.

It might be a welcome change of pace for sugar beet workers who have endured several days of cold, wet weather, but the predicted temperatures are actually only slightly above averages for this time of year.

“It’s definitely not a heat wave, that’s for sure,” Godon said. “It’s running closer to normal than we have been.”

This weekend could be among the last warm days of the year — it is mid-October, after all — but Godon said there are years when the temperate fall sticks around much longer. “We’ll see.”

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com.

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