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The sugar beet harvester at the Paul and Lucas Tschakert farm near Kent, Minn., stands silent near rows of beets in the foreground that won’t be harvested this year because a record-high 33-ton-per acre yield would be too much to store safely through the processing season. Photo taken Oct. 25, 2017, at Wahpeton, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Another 30-tonner: Sugar beet harvest wraps up

WAHPETON, N.D. — The Red River Valley sugar beet harvest was wrapping up this week, with growers still moving on a record-large yield in the southern valley.

Tom Knudsen, vice president of agriculture for Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, N.D., said co-op member-growers had reached about 90 percent completion of the allowed harvestable acres as of Oct. 26. Farmers hit by excess rains in the Chokio and Herman areas of Minnesota probably had the farthest to go.

Minn-Dak shareholders Paul Tschakert and his son, Lucas, at Kent, Minn., finished their beet harvesting the evening of Oct. 23, leaving the required 10 percent "corral" acreage. But on Tuesday, Oct. 24, the co-op released another 5 percent, and so they've lifted all but the 5 percent that remain in the field for likely abandonment to match processing capacities.

The Tschakerts grow 130 acres of beets. They have shifted to soybean and corn harvest.

"We would have one more short day of harvest left if they released anymore. Otherwise we are done," Paul said while moving soybeans and corn on Oct. 25.

His corn crop was similar to last year's, at about 200 bushels per acre, with a 22- to 23-percent moisture content. Soybean yields were variable from the mid-30s to mid-50s in bushels per acre.

Paul said the on-again, off-again beet harvest didn't cause his farm any labor problems, per se.

"We're okay," he said. "It just pushed back finishing beans and going into the corn."

It's just part of the give and take.

Minn-Dak members planted 95,000 acres in 2017, a 17 percent reduction from the 115,000 planted in 2016, which was another big crop. In addition, the board set an initial level of 15 percent of the planted acres that might have to remain in the field, but that figure now stands at 5 percent.

Knudsen declined to speculate whether the board final 5 percent might be harvested. The 2017 crop may average 33 tons per acre and would top the 31.9 ton record set in 2016.

Knudsen says the quality is much better, however, at 17 percent sugar compared to the 15.5 percent last year.

Paul said yields are "somewhat similar" to last year's yields, in the "mid-30s."

Meanwhile, American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minn., completed Oct. 20. Yield average is 30.1 tons per acre, which is second largest compared to last year at 30.4 tons per acre, co-op officials say. Preliminary data indicate sugar content may be about 18.11, up from 17.02 in 2016.

"A nice increase," says Tyler Grove, general agronomist.

Like Minn-Dak, Crystal initially advised growers they needed to identify about 15 percent of their acres as "at risk" for potential abandonment in the field. But the board reduced those percentages in stages until Oct. 12, when they told growers to harvest all remaining acres. The co-op has just 12 million tons in piles.