Minn-Dak sugarbeet growers averaged 24 tons per acre in 2020

Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative's vice president of agriculture and research, gives insight into their 2020 growing season.

Minn-Dak sugarbeet growers averaged 24.09 tons per acre in 2020 with a 16.88 percent sugar content. (Mike Spieker / The Sugarbeet Grower)

( This is part of a Sugarbeet Grower Magazine series of harvest-wrap up stories featuring sugarbeet companies from around the U.S. and Canada. For more, click here. )

Sugarbeet seed issue for the 2020 Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative crop took place April 6-10 and like most of the 2020 growing season, was conducted in a different manner than previous years’ due to the threat of COVID-19.

The planting level for the 2020 crop was set at a range of 1.42 to 1.52 acres per share of stock (102,524 to 109,744 acres). Planting was underway the third week of April and due to favorable soil conditions, increased at a rapid pace. The cooperative was just shy of 50% planted by the end of April and was over the 90%-mark by mid-May. We had several significant freeze events May 9-11 when temperatures dropped down to the mid-to low-20s. While very little damage was noted on the subterranean seedlings, fields that had emerged plants saw their stands thinned down (especially on fields with heavy trash/residue). Total planted acres were GIS-verified to be 105,859 acres (1.47 acres per share). Timely rainfall and warmer temperatures promoted the germination and emergence of the young crop and even in spite of the frost event, established stands on most fields were considered favorable. As such, replanting for the entire cooperative was almost 1,000 acres below the 10-year average at 690 total acres.

Weed control this past season again focused on concerns of glyphosate-tolerant weed species, primarily waterhemp and common ragweed. Pre- and post-emerge soil-applied herbicide tank mixes were common this past season and will likely continue to be the ‘new-normal’ going forward. Subterranean insects (cutworm, wireworm, and springtails) were the primary pests this past season, especially in the eastern tier of our growing area. Soil-borne diseases were not as much of an issue as in years past and had a very limited impact this past growing season.

The 2020 July yield samples (first of three time periods) revealed an estimated current root yield of 9.32 tons per acre. This was the second-largest collective sample volume we have experienced within the last five growing seasons and was 1.4 tons per acre above the 10-year average. An initial crop estimate of 28.5 tons per acre was released by the ag staff. This estimate was adjusted down slightly (to 27.5 tons per acre) after both sets of August yield samples were evaluated and the dry-cycle continued in the weather pattern. This estimate indicated an anticipated harvest volume of roughly 2.9 million tons. The August samples also offered a preview of the 2020 crop’s quality. Sugar percentage was recorded as 14.53% and purity at 89.85%. This was the highest recorded average sample purity experienced within the last 30 years and was indicative of the cooperative’s enhanced focus on sugarbeet fertility management.


Early harvest was underway Monday, Aug. 10 — the earliest start in the cooperative’s history. The early harvest period confirmed the crop was capable of tonnage per acre yields ranging somewhere in the mid-to-upper 20s. A major concern for the crop was the unknown impact of Cercospora leaf spot. Despite five to six applications of foliar fungicides, many fields had disappointing levels of control, which likely removed the top end potential from the crop.

For the most part, the 2020 main harvest was rapid and dry, commencing on Thursday, Oct. 1 and reaching 98% complete by Oct. 16 (official end date was Oct. 22). Minn-Dak growers harvested a total of 105,705 acres and delivered a total of 2,546,708 tons of sugarbeets. The crop averaged 16.88% sugar content, 89.7% purity, had a tare of 1.92% and yielded 24.09 tons per acre.

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