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Sugar beet harvest equipment was quiet at this field near Moorhead, Minn., and across the Red River Valley, except for American Crystal Sugar Co.’s piling station at Hitterdal, Minn. Record rain in the Grand Forks, N.D., area in particular has co-op shareholders hoping for a drier spell and a delay in freezing conditions. (Mikkel Pates / Agweek)

Rain makes for uneventful official start to sugar beet harvest

MOORHEAD, Minn. — The opening of the full-scale harvest at American Crystal Sugar Co., was largely stalled due to excessive rains.

The only harvest station operating on the Tuesday, Oct. 1, opening day was in the Moorhead factory district Hitterdal, Minn. Brian Ingulsrud, the company's vice president for agriculture, said record-setting September rains in some areas, including Grand Forks, N.D., were keeping producers out of the fields on the first scheduled day of the company's so-called full-scale harvest.

Ingulsrud said a few other piling stations in the Drayton factory district were considering harvesting Wednesday, Oct. 2, including North Dakota stations at Ardoch, St. Thomas and Bathgate.

Shareholders had started their pre-pile harvest a few weeks ago, which is operated on a limited basis that allows factories to start running.

This year's yield is estimated to be an average of 28.5 tons per acre, which may need to be increased because the beets tend to bulk up with moisture, Ingulsrud said. Conversely, the sugar content is currently projected at 17.3%, which is less than the 18% the company hopes for, Ingulsrud said, but the percentage could go down as beets get larger because of the rain.

Kurt Wickstrom, president and chief executive officer of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D., announced late last week that full-scale harvest would be delayed from Oct. 1 to Friday, Oct. 4. He said he hoped lifting could start by then in some dry areas. Yield is currently projected at about 25 tons per acre. Some earlier sugar content results had looked promising but rains have "tamped back" some of that optimism, he said.

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