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Sugarbeet slicing and processing campaigns proceed on schedule

Sidney Sugars in Montana has completed its slicing and processing campaigns, and companies in Minnesota and North Dakota are about two-thirds done.

A gray-blue sky is above a sugarbeet harvest scene. Untopped beets are to the right, while a strip in the center has been defoliated and is being dug. Beets are dropping into a beet cart driving on the already-harvested portion of the field. Both the digger and cart are pulled by John Deere tractors. Other equipment is obscured in the background.
Bruce Nelson Farms near Barnesville, Minnesota, harvests sugar beets in this fall 2021 photo.
Contributed / Amanda Nelson
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The sugarbeet slicing and processing campaigns at factories in Minnesota and North Dakota are progressing well, sugarbeet company agriculture managers said.

American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota, has sliced and processed more than 8 million tons, or 75% of its 11.8 million tons 2021 crop , said Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal Sugar vice president of agriculture.

The company’s farmers planted 411,000 acres of sugarbeets in April and May 2021, making swift progress because conditions were dry. The dry growing conditions looked like they would take a toll on crop yields, but rains and warm temperatures in September and October added size and weight to the sugarbeets, and it turned out to be one of the largest crops in the company's history, averaging 28.7 tons per acre.

Cold temperatures this winter have been favorable for sugarbeet storage, and the crop remains in good condition, Ingulsrud said.

American Crystal Sugar Co. expects to wrap up slicing and processing the sugarbeets in mid-May, which annually is the target date for completion, he said

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Sidney Sugars Inc. , which is owned by American Crystal Sugar Co., finished its slicing campaign on Feb. 7 and completed processing its sugarbeets on Feb. 13, said David Garland, general manager of Sidney Sugars Inc. in Sidney, Montana.

In Wahpeton, North Dakota, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative has sliced slightly more than two-thirds of the 3 million tons of sugarbeets it harvested in fall 2021 , said Mike Metzger, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative vice president of agriculture and research.

“We have about 1.3 million left,” Metzger said.

The large size of the 2021 crop was a surprise to the company, which had expected it be lower as a result of dry growing conditions.

Field conditions were favorable when the 500 farmers who grow sugarbeets for the company planted a total of about 105,000 acres in spring 2021. However, dry conditions during late spring and summer prompted the company to reduce its estimates to 24 tons per acre.

Unusually warm temperatures and rain shortly before harvest, though, combined to increase the size of the crop to the target of 30 tons per acre it regularly strives to produce.

“Piles are still storing incredibly well,” Metzger said. “The factory is humming right along.

“We should be finished toward the end of May,” he said.

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Farther south, at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville, slicing is about two-thirds completed, said Todd Geselius, the company’s vice president of agriculture.

Buoyed by rains in September and October and unseasonably warm weather in the late growing season, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative crop averaged 36.5 tons per acre , the highest per acre in its history. The previous record was set in 2017 when farmers harvested 30.3 tons per acre.

The sugarbeets have stored well and are in good condition, Geselius said. The company expects the slicing campaign to be completed by late May, which is similar to last year, he said.

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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