Sugar beets usually are one of the Upper Midwest's most profitable crops. They also can be exceptionally difficult to harvest.
Not this year.
"We've been rocking and rolling on beet harvest," said Harrison Weber, executive director of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, which represents 2,500 sugar beet growers from both Minnesota and North Dakota who are shareholders in American Crystal Sugar Co.
As of Oct. 5, members of the growers association had harvested about two-thirds of their beets, he said.
That exceeds the harvest pace estimate in the weekly crop progress report released Oct. 5 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report, which reflected conditions on Oct. 4., found that 50% of Minnesota sugar beets overall were harvested, up from the five-year average of 30%, and 56% of North Dakota sugar beets overall were harvested, up from the five-year average of 35%.
Corn and soybean harvest also made good progress overall in the week ending Oct. 4, according to the report.
Favorable harvest conditions were common across the region. Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South all enjoyed 5.5 to 7 days suitable for fieldwork during the week, the report said.
Sugar beets are grown in several parts of the region, but are most prominent in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota Last year, heavy fall precipitation, including snowstorms, badly hampered sugar beet harvest in much of that area. Last year's unusually slow harvest pace brought down the five-year harvest averages.
In contrast, harvest conditions this fall generally have been good, with the cool, dry weather that allows growers to make rapid progress, Weber said.
He estimated that roughly 90% of sugar beets of his group's members could be harvested by Oct. 8 or Oct. 9 if favorable conditions continue.
After the exceptionally difficult 2019 beet harvest, "This harvest is really welcome," Weber said. "We needed it."
Yields this year won't set a record high, but will be much better than those in "disastrous 2019," he said.
Here's a state-by-state look at soybean, corn and sunflower harvests, as well as the planting pace for winter wheat. All numbers are for Oct. 4. Again, keep in mind that difficult 2019 harvest conditions for corn, soybeans and sunflowers pulled down their five-year averages.
Iowa — 55% was combined, nearly triple the five-year average of 20%.
Minnesota — 61% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 35%.
North Dakota — 60% of the crop was combined, up from the five-year average of 38%.
South Dakota — 60% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 27%.
Minnesota — 14% was harvested, up from the the five-year average of 7%.
North Dakota — 11% was combined, up from the five-year average of 5%.
South Dakota — 20% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 9%.
Iowa — 25% was combined, up from the five-year average of 10%.
North Dakota — 16% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 5%.
South Dakota — 6% was harvested, up from the five-year average of 3%.
Montana — 50% was in the ground, down from the five-year average of 63%.
South Dakota — 70% was planted, down from the five-year average of 72%.