Sidney Sugars wraps up harvest after difficult growing season

Sidney Sugars, Inc, of Sidney, Montana, expected to finish the beet harvest on Oct. 31, 2021. Hot, dry conditions made irrigation difficult to manage. Yields are lackluster at nearly 28 tons per acre, but sugar content will be a respectable 18.4%.

Last day of harvest in Fairview MT for Jeff Bieber and Family - Texas Red Enterprises 2.jpeg
Jeff Bieber of Fairview, Montana, submitted this photo of the last day of sugarbeet harvest in 2021. Jeff Bieber

SIDNEY, Montana — Sidney Sugars Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Crystal Sugar Co., a farmer-owned cooperative based in Moorhead, Minnesota, is finishing its “weird,” growing season, to be remembered or forgotten with the effects of hot, dry conditions.

Sidney’s harvest was 94% complete as of Oct. 27, 2021.

“We’re hoping to round up harvest on Oct. 31,” said Duane Peters, Sidney Sugars’ agricultural manager.

The company’s slice campaign is expected to run through Feb. 5, 2022, and the processing campaign through Feb. 10, 2022, said general manager David Garland.

About 105 producers brought in 31,000 acres. Yields averaged about 27.8 to 28 tons per acre, which is short of the 30-ton expectation. Sugar content is a respectable 18.4%.


It was a year of record-high temperatures.

In the early growing season, about 10 to 12% of producers decided against irrigating early. About 45% irrigate in furrow irrigation while 55% use sprinklers.

A record-high days of 100-plus-degree temperatures took its toll, both in yield potential and reduced effectiveness of herbicides. Peters sees a further shift toward pre-emergence herbicides. The company is recommending producers change the chemistry in herbicides within the crops they’re growing.

Some producers may regret shutting off irrigation at the end of the season, thinking they would get typical 2-inch rains in late September. In hindsight, when those rains didn’t materialize, they probably lost some yield, Peters said.

Southern growing areas for the company received a total of about 4 inches of rain in storms from Oct. 10 to 12, which probably added up to 1.5 tons per acre in yield. Drier northern areas had higher sugars, up to 20%.

October brought heat, snow and then rain for some, Peters said. One “weird” thing was that beet tops never “laid down” with high temperatures, giving producers a false impression they would yield better.

“We had 35-ton tops but 28- to 29-ton beets,” Peters said. “We’re praying for snow in the mountains,” to replenish the rivers that feed the irrigation systems, Peters said.

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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