Recent wind event wreaks havoc on sugarbeet crop

Near 50 mph wind speeds tore through the Red River Valley last week, leaving the area's sugarbeet crop beaten and battered.

From left; Austin Koenig, Gunnar Olson and Chad Thorson load sugarbeet seed into a planter south of East Grand Forks. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service
Sugarbeet planters hit the fields again as last week's wind event forced growers to replant affected areas. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service
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On May 25, a severe wind event ripped through North Dakota and the Red River Valley. According to the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, maximum wind speeds in the high 40s and even up to 50 mph were clocked in North Dakota.

The wind picked up the soil as it blew across the state and turned the sky an eerie shade of gray. In the fields, newly emerged plants were sandblasted by soil particles.

“That was one of the most painful days I’ve ever endured as a farmer. This is my 25th crop. By far, that was the worst day that I can recall,” said Wheatland, N.D., grower Jason Schatzke. “The wind was blowing 40 to 50 miles per hour. The dirt was blowing. There was nothing we could do to stop it. It was just one of nature’s events that I hope I never see again.”

In an attempt to protect his crop from the wind and blowing soil, Schatzke went out into the fields early that morning.

“We tried a practice what I learned when I first started farming. We grabbed all the row crop cultivators in preparation for the wind event. We went out into the sugarbeet fields and tried to bring up fresh dirt again to bring up some lumps and moisture to bring it to the top,” he said. “In the fields we were able to get to early enough, we did a good jump of stopping the blowing dirt from injuring those young plants.


“There will be a significant amount of sugarbeets that have to be replanted,” said Schatzke.

When the wind picks up the dirt, the dirt hits the leaf and acts like a sandblaster. “In all of 30 minutes of blowing dirt, the leaves can be degraded to the point where they are basically sawed off,” said Schatzke. “With the growing point above ground, if that gets damaged to the point where it can’t initiate new growth, the plant is not viable anymore and needs to be replanted.”

As of May 28, Schatzke had replanted around 200 acres of sugarbeets due to wind damage.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Kody Kyllo, agriculturalist for American Crystal Sugar Co.’s Hillsboro district. “Guys I’ve been talking to said it has been since the 1980s since they have seen a wind event that bad, and even then it wasn’t as bad as what we had on the 25th.”

Kyllo said around 950 acres of sugarbeets have been replanted in his area, which covers Gradin to Buxton to Mayville, N.D.

Growers in some parts of the Red River Valley are opting to see if their sugarbeets will recover instead of replanting, because there simply isn’t enough moisture in the soil for seeds to germinate if they did replant.

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