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U.S. sugarbeet crop looking pretty sweet pre-harvest after sour weather delayed spring planting

In northern growing areas a cold, wet spring delayed planting, and then wind destroyed some of the acreage so farmers had to replant it. In western states, hail damaged acres shortly after they were replanted because of wind damage

A field of sugarbeets along Interstate-94 beneath a bluff in Montana.
Western Sugar Co.'s northern region farmers generally got their sugarbeets planted on time, but the crops still were delayed by a cool spring. Photo taken near Bighorn, Montana, on July 12, 2022.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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Excessive rain, extreme temperatures and wind have challenged sugarbeet farmers across the United States this growing season.

In northern growing areas, for example, a cold, wet spring delayed planting, and then wind destroyed some of the acreage so farmers had to replant it. In western states hail damaged acres shortly after they were replanted because of wind damage.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its July 2022 Sugars and Sweeteners Outlook, increased its sugarbeet production forecast by 918,000 short tons over June because of additional planting in some regions, up to 31.95 million short tons.

Here’s a look at how the growing sugarbeet crop of U.S. companies was progressing in late July and early August 2022.

Amalgamated Sugar

Sugarbeets in a field in front of mountains in the distance.
Sugarbeets grown for Amalgamated Sugar Co. were thriving in late June in a field near Nampa, Idaho. Photo taken June 28, 2022.
Contributed / Lance Pitcher, Amalgamated Sugar

The sugarbeet crop continues to progress well and is healthy. Insect and disease pressure are low, said Brodie Griffin, Amalgamated Sugar’s vice president of agriculture.

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The forecast in early August was for cooler temps, in the 90s, for the next several days. Harvest will begin in the Magic Valley and Upper Snake growing regions on Sept. 6 and on Sept. 26. in the Treasure Valley.

About 700 farmers grow sugarbeets for Amalgamated Sugar, which is based in Boise, Idaho. Factories in the Idaho cities of Twin Falls, Paul and Nampa produce a total of as much as 2.2 billion pounds of sugar annually.

American Crystal Sugar Co.

A man in a blue plaid shirt and blue jeans holds a sugarbeet plant.
Daniel Vagle, American Crystal Sugar Co. senior agriculturalist, checked the progress of the sugarbeet crop in a Walsh County, North Dakota, field in early July during a soil health tour.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Although farmers who grow sugarbeets for American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minnesota, got a late start planting their crops because of unseasonably cold and wet weather conditions, the growing season weather has been favorable for crop progress.

“We’ve had very good weather the rest of the summer, helping push that crop along,” said Joe Hastings, American Crystal Sugar Co. general agronomist.

Farmers in late July were spraying to control cercospora leaf spot, which thrives in warm, wet weather, he said.

The cooperative was taking root samples in late July to determine when harvest would begin. Farmers who grow beets for American Crystal Sugar Co. planted a total of 458,349 acres this spring. Slightly less than 4.5%, or 20,495 acres, of those had to be replanted after strong winds destroyed plants.

The early harvest typically starts mid- to late August and the full-scale harvest begins in early October.

Michigan Sugar

After a later-than-normal planting season, which resulted from cold, wet conditions this past spring, the Michigan Sugar Co. crop is in good condition.

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Farmers this spring planted slightly less than 150,000 acres of sugarbeets, about 10,000 acres less than last year, said Elizabeth Taylor, Michigan Sugar agricultural relations and communications manager.

After planting was delayed by too much moisture, the weather turned drier and the crop needed rain in early August, Taylor said. The sugarbeets, however, were healthy with no evidence of disease issues and maturity was only five or six days behind average.

“They look great right now,” Taylor said on Aug. 1, 2022. The company estimates that with timely rains, the crop will yield from 30 to 31 tons per acre, slightly more than the five-year average. In 2021, Michigan Sugar Co.’s farmers harvested a record crop of 37.5 tons per acre.

On Aug. 1, the early harvest date wasn’t yet determined, but Taylor estimated it likely would be in late August or early September, with the stock harvest following at the end of October.

MinnDak Farmers Co-op

Despite a cold, wet spring delayed planting, sugarbeets grown for Wahpeton, Minnesota-based Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op were generally in good condition in late July, said Blake Buck, Minn-Dak Farmers Co-Op agriculturalist.

“In general, right now we’re dealing with the normal issues,” Buck said. That includes applying fungicides to manage cercospora leaf disease and rhizoctonia root rot. The latter was spotty and showing up in small quantities.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Minn-Dak were given the option of growing more acres this year through a program called “extra acres incentive.” Farmers this year planted 105,000.

Minn-Dak earlier this year anticipated acreage would be 101,000, and the board authorized additional acreage up to 115,000 because of the late growing season.

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The cooperative was taking root samples in late July to determine when harvest would begin. The cooperative anticipates farmers will begin the early harvest on Aug. 22, 2022, which is the typical start date, Buck said.

Sidney Sugars Inc.

“We were roughly anywhere from 14 to 25 days behind normal planting. We usually plant April 15 to 19, and we never got started until May 10,” said Duane Peters, Sidney Sugars agricultural manager. The company’s farmers planted about 18,500 acres this past spring.

After the crop was planted, heavy rains fell, which required farmers to “crust bust” about 70% of the Sidney, Montana-based company’s sugarbeet fields so the plants could push through the soil, Peters said. Since then, however, weather conditions have improved and the crop looks good.

“We like the crop we’re seeing right now,” Peters said in late July 2022. “Growers, they’re pleasantly surprised.”

Sidney Sugars Inc. in late July was estimating that farmers would harvest an average of 29.36 tons per acre, which is slightly lower than the company’s historical average yield. The company planned to do a second root pull during the second week of August to determine when harvest would begin.

“We would like to see it around 31 (tons per acre.) We could still hit that,” Peters said.

Sidney Sugars Inc. typically begins the early harvest about mid-September and the full harvest commences Oct. 1.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-Op

After a late start that resulted from a cold, wet spring, the weather in some of the Renville, Minnesota-based Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-Op ‘s area turned dry, said Todd Geselius, the cooperative’s vice president of agriculture.

Overall, the crop looked good in late July, Geselius said.

“We’re doing just fine. Things are coming along. We’re on the drier side, for sure,” but the beets have an amazing root system,” he said.

Western Sugar Co.

The sugarbeet crop in the Denver-based company's southern region, which is made up of southeast Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, has undergone a variety of weather-related damage. Farmers in the southern region grow about 75,000 or nearly 70% of the company’s total of 110,000 acres,said Jerry Darnell, Western Sugar, vice president of agriculture, southern region.

Final planting in the southern region was not completed until June 1, 2022, because wind destroyed about 20% of the crop after the initial planting, he said. The late planting delayed crop development, which is two to three weeks behind.

“Lots of events from Mother Nature that have caused issues; wind, freeze, hail, lack of moisture. Now we’re setting record high temperatures of over 100 degrees,” Darnell said in late July.

Sugarbeets in Western Sugar Co.’s northern region were planted on time, but the cool, wet spring delayed growth, said Randall Jobman, Western Sugar Co. north region vice president of agriculture, based in Billings, Montana.

Though the crop was behind, it looked fair in early August, Jobman said. During the first week in August the company planned to take samples to determine when the early harvest would begin. On average, it starts the first week in September, Jobman said.

Wyoming Sugar

The majority of farmers who grow sugarbeets for Wyoming Sugar, based in Worland, Wyoming, started planting their crops about April 20, 2022, which is later than normal because it was cold and wet this past spring.

The company, whose owner-growers in Washakie, Big Horn and Fremont counties, this year planted 11,200 acres of sugarbeets, said Kadan Huber, Wyoming Sugar agriculturalist.

Sugarbeet development in late July was about a week, to a week and a half behind average, Huber said.

Overall, the crop looked "pretty good,” in late July, he said, and the cooperative was estimating that yields would be slightly below last year’s 31 tons per acre average.

Harvest this fall will begin in mid-September to early October, which is typical for the cooperative, Huber said.

Related Topics: SUGARBEETSAGRICULTURECROPS
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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