Harvest well underway for Michigan Sugar

Michigan Sugar's harvest was reported to be about 48% complete on Nov. 1, with the crop having high yields, but lower sugar content.

Michigan Sugar has over 160,000 acres of sugarbeets in both Michigan as well as Ontario. Photo taken in September of 2021, near Humboldt, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek

With over 160,000 acres of sugarbeets to harvest in Michigan and Ontario, Michigan Sugar's harvest is projected to wrap around Thanksgiving time.

Sugarbeet harvest is well underway in Michigan and Ontario, according to Michigan Sugar. As of Nov. 1, the company said their sugarbeet harvest was about 48% complete. By the Nov. 8 Crop Progress report from U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state of Michigan was 80% complete.

While their harvest usually concludes around Nov. 10, this harvest is estimated to take longer to complete due to the weather conditions in the region.

Though the harvest has been slower than normal, the overall yield in the sugarbeet acres has been nothing short of solid.

“We got a record crop. North of 36 tons per acre,” Jim Ruhlman, executive vice president of Michigan Sugar, said.


Michigan Sugar has collected 2.8 million tons so far this harvest and projects to collect 5.4 million tons by the end of their harvest. Though Michigan Sugar is happy with the overall tonnage of sugar, they are not as thrilled about the sugar content.

“Personally I think that instead of storing energy in the form of sugar, our crop has been expending energy through growth. I just don’t think we got the cold weather to tell these beets to stop growing and start conserving energy,” Ruhlman said. “Our beets just never stopped growing.”

According to Ruhlman, the beets being harvested have a sugar content percentage in the mid 16-17%. Michigan Sugar likes to see their sugarbeet crop come in around 18% sugar content.

“A little bit lower in the sugar content than they would like to be, but the tons are certainly there,” Ruhlman said.

Due to the magnitude of this crop, Michigan Sugar will be setting aside an amount of sugarbeets this harvest season, something that has not been done in many years according to Ruhlman.

“The size of this crop is not going to allow us to slice all of our beets by that time. Therefore we’re setting aside 5% so they don’t deteriorate in the pile,” he said. “It’s the first time in recent history that we have done that.”

In terms of planting the sugarbeets this year, after a detrimental frost hit the region, around 35,000 acres of sugarbeets had to be replanted. Despite the initial frost, the weather did not throw anymore curveballs and the region received consistent rainfall throughout the growing season.

As Michigan Sugar reaches the second half of its harvest season, Ruhlman takes his hat off to the growers who have grown quite the crop and attributes much of the yield success to their management practices.


“I like to give a lot of credit to our shareholders and growers. I just think they are first class and world class growers. They put a lot of effort and pride into their sugarbeet crop, this year was no exception,” he 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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