Spreckels Sugar fought heat to harvest 2021 crop and should wrap up new crop planting this week

Shelby Drye, agriculture manager for the company, said planting began around Sept. 8, 2021, for the crop to be harvested in 2022 and should wrap up this week. Harvest finished in August for the 2020-21 crop.

Spreckels harvest.jpg
Spreckels Sugar Company began harvest in April 2021 and wrapped up in August. Planting for the 2021-22 crop was expected to wrap up by mid-November. Spreckels Sugar photo.
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While the rest of the North American sugarbeet growing regions are working on wrapping up harvest, Speckels Sugar in southern California is hoping to finish up planting this week.

Spreckels Sugar Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative , annually grows around 24,000 acres in California's Imperial Valley. Unlike the sugarbeets grown farther north, Spreckels growers plant in the fall and harvest in the spring and summer.

Shelby Drye, agriculture manager for the company, said planting began around Sept. 8, 2021, for the crop to be harvested in 2022.

"It’s been a terrific planting season," Drye said. "We’ve had very few issues with stands, very few concerns over our seed varieties and how they perform, and really it’s been kind of quiet."

Growers will have some replants, mostly due to salt in fields, he said.


Spreckels Sugar in August wrapped up harvest on the 2020-21, which had begun on April 1, 2021. The crop was planted on 24,024 acres. Of that, 2,316 had to be replanted due to a seed variety not performing well.

"The growing season was great," Drye said.

Despite the replants, the crop came out well, with 46.61 tons per acre, 16.93% sugar content and 88.59% purity. Drye said 648 acres had to be abandoned.

"The temperatures are really what hit us last year," he said, explaining that the early high temperatures led to some beets rotting in the fields.

He credited growers and the industry for coming together to make the best of a bad situation.

"The (Imperial) Valley’s very good at coming together and trying to get the crop in," he said.

Because Spreckels Sugar growers use irrigation that runs from the Colorado River to the All-American Canal and through fields, the pervasive drought on the West Coast hasn't been overly burdensome for growers, Drye said. However, there are rumors that the Imperial Irrigation District may limit water for irrigation if there is insufficient snow in the mountains to runoff into the river in the future, Drye said.

Growers have been moving from furrow irrigation to sprinklers, which not only uses less water but also tends to lead to better quality beets, he said.

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at or 701-595-0425.
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