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Published August 08, 2014, 11:42 AM

RRV sugar beet crop looking small, late

Sugar beet cooperative leaders say early indications are for a smaller sugar beet yield than earlier expected in the Red River Valley.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Sugar beet cooperative leaders say early indications are for a smaller sugar beet yield than earlier expected in the Red River Valley.

Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal Sugar Co. vice president for agriculture, says the Moorhead, Minn.-based farmer-owned cooperative initially had planned for a 27-ton crop, but earlier this season had been expecting a 25-ton crop because of excessive June rains. But the first samples of the season taken Aug. 6 indicate a crop of about 22 to 23 tons per acre.

Crystal’s prospects are for a 2014 crop that is 15 to 20 percent below target yields, Ingulsrud says. He says the crop could turn out better, and even could use some rain. Most fields have adequate plant populations, but a late planting season and cool weather seem to have affected the crop’s potential.

Ingulsrud says the co-op hopes to start the factories sometime between Aug. 28 and Sept. 11, with harvest starting three days before the factory start-up. The traditional pre-pile harvest start is Sept. 1, but occasionally has been moved into mid-August for extraordinarily large crops.

Tom Knudsen, vice president of agriculture for Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., says his company took samples in mid-July and saw “what we expected but not what we wanted” — a 17-ton-per-acre crop. That was based on damage from June and early July rains.

“Since that time, it’s dried out and things are looking better,” Knudsen says, speculating that upside potential is for a 20-ton crop. “Now it’s time for a splash” of rain, Knudsen says.

The conditions indicate fall processing won’t start until Sept. 17, which would extend sugar processing into early April 2015. Knudsen says that plan will still offer some flexibility if the company encounters the unexpected “explosion” of yield that caught them and others by surprise in the fall of 2013.

Officials of Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative were not immediately available for comment.

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