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Northern Plains sugarbeet production pegged below average but outcome depends on weather until harvest

Sugarbeets in North Dakota and Minnesota could grow in size and put on weight if weather is warm and moisture is adequate.

The pre-pile sugarbeet harvest in North Dakota and Minnesota will begin in August 2022.
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North Dakota and Minnesota sugarbeet production in 2022 likely will be lower than last year because of the cold, wet spring that delayed planting.

Early models for American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota, estimate yields from 24.5 to 25 tons per acre, said Joe Hastings, American Crystal Sugar Co. general agronomist. In 2021, farmers who grow sugarbeets for the cooperative harvested an average of 28.7 tons per acre.

American Crystal Sugar Co’s prepile harvest is scheduled to begin Aug. 23, 2022, and the company plans to start up its factories on Aug. 25, Hastings said. The stockpile harvest is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.

Between now and harvest, the cooperative’s production could grow if there is adequate rainfall and temperatures warm.

Last year, American Crystal in August estimated average yields would be 25.5 tons per acre. An unseasonably wet September and October 2021 added an additional 11% to the sugarbeets’ per acre production.


In mid-August 2022, the Red River Valley sugarbeet crop generally was dry and would benefit from rain, Hastings said. As of Aug. 15, American Crystal planned to have farmers who grow sugarbeets for the company harvest 455,000 acre in 2022.

Father south, Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op in Wahpeton, North Dakota, expected to begin its 2022 pre-pile harvest on Aug. 29, a week later than it had earlier planned, to give the sugarbeets time to add some size and weight, said Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op vice president of agriculture.

He was pleased, though, with the condition of the sugarbeets, given their late start.

“The crop continues to look pretty good, considering that 75% of our beets were planted after May 20, which is an historic delay for us,” Metzger said. Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op annually plant about 105,000 acres of the crop.

Minn-Dak Farmer Co-op’s official production estimate as of Aug 16 was 22.5 tons per acre, but that number could change, if the fall weather is warm and wet.

“There could be an upside of 2 to 3 tons with the weather,” Metzger said. “If we could finish in the mid-20s (tons per acre) that would be good for us.” Last year, Minn-Dak Farmer Co-op’s average per acre production was slightly more than 32 tons per acre.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op plans to launch its pre-pile harvest in mid-September, said Todd Geselius, the co-op's vice president of agriculture. The cooperative’s farmers, like Red River Valley farmers, got a late start planting sugarbeets because of the cold, wet spring. Farmers who grow sugarbeets for SMBSC planted 110,000 acres of sugarbeets in 2022.

Besides the planting delay, the 2022 SMBSC crop was challenged by dry conditions in mid-summer.


Rains that fell generally across the cooperative’s acreage during the past two weeks “really helped out” the sugarbeets, Geselius said on Aug. 16. “Things are looking better.”

Early SMBSC production estimate, before the rain, was 25 tons per acre. That number could be revised, depending on how the sugarbeets responded to the most recent rains and what the weather conditions are during the next two months.

In 2021, the cooperative’s growers harvested an average of 36.5 tons per acre, a SMBSC record.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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