A smooth and steady sugar beet harvest, a welcomed change

Following last year's devastating sugar beet harvest, sugar beet producers are pleased with the overall smoothness of this year's harvest.

Neil Rockstad, president of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Assocation, is pleased with how this season's sugar beet harvest is going. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

After last year’s harrowing sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley, sugar beet producers in the region are experiencing a smooth and steady harvest this season.

“Harvest has been really good as far as the weather is going, we've been going non-stop since Sept. 30, and my field conditions couldn’t be better. We got more done in three days this harvest compared to the 45 days we were in the fields last year. It's been nothing but a refreshing change from last harvest,” said Neil Rockstad, sugar beet producer and president of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Last year many sugar beet producers were forced to leave their crop in the fields unharvested due to the poor weather conditions. While a number of sugar beets were left in the field, they did not negatively impact this year’s sugar beet crop.

“The crop that was planted seemed to perform pretty well. The sugar beets that remained in the ground certainly tied up some of the available nutrients, so it may have deprived the crop a little bit. But, overall they grew pretty well,” Rockstad said.

As for his sugar beet yield this harvest, Rockstad’s fields have been average or very close to average. While last year’s overall sugar beet crop was better, producers could not get into the fields to harvest them. Rockstad prefers this year's harvest, undoubtedly, compared to last.


“I’m happier with an average crop and actually being able to harvest it, as opposed to the harvest last year,” Rockstad said.

Rockstad started his pre-pilling harvest in mid August and began full on harvest on Sept. 30. He, as well as other producers in the area, have been pleased with the overall smoothness of this harvest season.

“I have been hearing nothing but good reports from fellow producers. I think people are pleased and the sugar beets’ sugar content is on the high side, which is a good thing. I think people are genuinely happy with the yield given this season and how we have had such a fluid harvest so far,” Rockstad said.

Rockstad projects he will be done harvesting his sugar beet crop within the next week — that is if he does not encounter any road blocks. One potential delay for producers could be the possibility of a heat shut down. When sugar beets are harvested and taken in, their roots must be within a certain temperature. If the sugar beet’s roots are above the desired temperature and put into a pile, there is major rotting potential for the entire pile. In addition, the target temperature also makes the crop viable for long-term storage.

“Having a heat shutdown would mean a delay, but overall this harvest season has been going so smoothly and producers are pleased, it has been a welcomed change,” Rockstad said.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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