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Sugarbeet harvest underway in North Dakota and Minnesota

The stockpile or main harvest was underway at all five of American Crystal Sugar Co. factory districts and at Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op on Oct. 6.

A tan sugarbeet root and green foliage are in a field of black dirt.
The 2022 stockpile harvest of American Crystal Sugar co. and Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op began on Oct. 6, 2022.
Ann Bailey Agweek
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The 2022 sugarbeet harvest in North Dakota and Minnesota is in full swing.

The stockpile or main harvest was underway at all five of American Crystal Sugar Co. factory districts and at Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op on Oct. 6. The full harvest of American Crystal Sugar originally was scheduled to begin at all of the factory districts Oct. 1, but was delayed because of warm temperatures during the first several days of October.

Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op had not scheduled a start date, and, instead, was determining when it would start based on the temperature.

American Crystal Sugar’s factory in Drayton, North Dakota, started its sugarbeet campaign, as scheduled, at 12:01 a.m., Oct. 1, 2022, but stopped harvesting in the afternoon of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 because temperatures were too warm for sugarbeet storage.

The Moorhead, Minnesota-based company’s factories in Hillsboro, North Dakota, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, Crookston, Minnesota and Moorhead launched their harvests at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 5, but shut down operations in the afternoon when temperatures warmed.

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On Oct. 6, farmers in all five factories began harvesting sugarbeets. Harvest also began Oct. 6 at Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

American Crystal Sugar Co. estimates the 2022 crop will yield an average of 26.3 tons per acre, slightly below the five-year average of 28 tons per acre. The daily sugar percentage is 18, said Steve Rosenau, American Crystal Sugar Co. vice president of agriculture.

“Sugar content has been increasing steadily over the month of September,” he said. Harvesting conditions are good after just enough rain fell to make the ground soft enough for digging, but not wet enough to muddy the sugarbeets.

Rosenau didn’t anticipate that the cold temperatures forecast for overnight Oct. 6 would damage the sugarbeet crop. Although a temperature in the low 20s was forecast, the ground still is warm from the preceding days of warm daytime and nighttime temperatures.

American Crystal Sugar also has advised farmers who are harvesting the sugarbeets to have sugarbeet lifters stay close to the toppers.

“If they do that, that shouldn’t be an issue,” Rosenau said.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op will follow a similar plan, said Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Growers vice president of agriculture.

Pegging an average per acre sugarbeet yield is difficult because yields vary depending on where rain fell, he said.

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“Anywhere from the low 20s to mid 20s,” Metzger said.

The warm, dry weather has resulted in increased sugar content.

“Sugar content is excellent – upper 18s to low 19s," he said.

Further south at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op in Renville the stockpile harvest, which started Oct. 4, paused for a heat shutdown the next day, then re-started Oct. 6, said Todd Geselius the cooperative’s vice president of agriculture.

Estimates of the per acre yield that were based on weekly samples taken before harvest were of 26.5 tons per acre, Geselius said. The pre-pile harvest period was short, so more harvesting needs to be done before a more accurate estimate is made.

It’s clear, though, that sugar content is growing.

“Sugar content is climbing dramatically,” Geselius said. Samples taken on Oct. 4 estimated sugar at 16.8%.

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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