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Published June 17, 2013, 09:38 AM

Tough start for RRV sugar beets

The combination of a late, cold spring and heavy late May and early June rains make this year a landmark, particularly in the northern valley, says Nick Sinner, executive director of the Fargo, N.D.-based Red River Valley Sugar Beet Growers Association.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

In a “landmark” year for the Red River Valley sugar beet industry, tens of thousands of acres won’t get planted to beets, sugar beet officials say.

The combination of a late, cold spring and heavy late May and early June rains make this year a landmark, particularly in the northern valley, says Nick Sinner, executive director of the Fargo, N.D.-based Red River Valley Sugar Beet Growers Association.

Generally, beets were planted, albeit later than ideal, in the southern two-thirds of the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. In the northern valley, however, spring came so late and May and June weather was so wet that some farmers, despite their best efforts, were unable to plant some or all of their beets, Sinner says.

American Crystal Sugar, a Moorhead, Minn.-based cooperative, had authorized 458,000 acres of beets this year. Growers were obligated to continue trying to plant until June 10.

As of June 11, only 426,000 acres, or 93 percent of the authorized acres, had been planted, with most of the shortfall coming in the northern valley, says Jeff Schweitzer, American Crystal spokesman.

An additional 2,000 or 3,000 acres might be planted if weather and planting conditions permit, he says.

Individual beet growers will need to talk with their insurance agents to determine what they should do with fields that couldn’t be planted to beets, he says.

Putting this year’s planting problems in historical perspective is difficult, because some parts of American Crystal’s growing area struggle with uncooperative weather just about every season, he says.

But this year’s crop is roughly a month behind what it was in 2012, when an early spring allowed many American Crystal growers to plant relatively early, Schweitzer says.

Because the 2013 crop is late, it faces unusually high weather-related risk.

“Mother Nature will have to work with us this year. We’re hoping that sunshine and warmer temperatures are here and will stick around. We’ll need sunshine and warm temperatures in September to keep beets growing and putting sugar on,” he says.

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