By Joe Hastings | General Agronomist for American Crystal Sugar Company
In the Red River Valley (RRV), the spring of 2019 started off with cooler than normal temperatures with higher soil moisture levels as a result of a wet fall in 2018. This resulted in delayed planting of the 2019 sugarbeet crop. Seeing planting was behind schedule, additional acreage was authorized to be planted via the spring TAP program in an amount of about 10,000 acres. May remained cool but dry, allowing planting to finally occur, resulting in an average planting date of May 10th, four days behind our 10-year average. Overall stand establishment was average and acceptable, however, there were areas that experienced dry seedbeds, crusting and wind events that reduced stand. This was mainly experienced in the East Grand Forks and Hillsboro districts.
Cooler than normal temperatures throughout the growing season resulted in sugarbeet growing degree days being below normal throughout the ACSC growing area. A contrast in rainfall amounts from the northern RRV to the southern RRV occurred during the growing season. This line was established roughly at Grand Forks. North of that line, especially in the Drayton district, experienced drought conditions most of the summer while south of that line, primarily in the Moorhead district, experienced excessive rain amounts. Due to the excessive soil moisture in the Moorhead district, development of some root disease was observed in some fields. In the drier areas, there was a very low incidence of root disease, if any. Weed control was good overall with growers implementing glyphosate-resistant weed control practices to control waterhemp and common ragweed. These practices are being adopted throughout the RRV as resistant weed pressure has moved north. Sugarbeet Root Maggot (SBRM) pressure continues to expand, primarily in the East Grand Forks and Crookston districts. Cercospora leafspot control was adequate as resistance management efforts continue in application timing, tank-mixing and rotating modes of action, as well as, using proper application methods of water volume, nozzles and pressure. Even with the challenges of the growing season, there was very good crop in fields to harvest. Pre-harvest began on August 15th, coinciding with the start of multiple rain events that would hamper the entire harvest season. Throughout pre-pile harvest, it rained often making it challenging to maintain inventory levels for factory slice. Official stockpile harvest started October 1st, but rain events continued affecting the entire region along with a snow event on October 11th that dropped up to a foot of snowfall in some areas. Through August 15th – October 31st areas of the RRV received as much as nine inches above normal precipitation. The center three districts of Hillsboro, Crookston and East Grand Forks were the most affected, but Moorhead and Drayton had issues as well. At the end of October, temperatures were well below freezing for several days, freezing beets, as well as, increasing mud chunks in load deliveries. Harvest was called on November 9th due to it being uneconomical to proceed. When harvest was called, 7.5 million tons had been received (66% of the estimated tonnage). Acres harvested averaged 26.8 tons/acre, 17.46% sugar, 1.42% sugar loss to molasses equating to 8,603 lbs. of recoverable sugar/acre. Acres delivered at pre-pile harvest have considerable weight on the final average crop statistics. These averages would have been higher if more acres could have been harvested at stockpile. The 2019 harvest is unprecedented in its challenges and difficulties due to the environmental conditions. We look forward to the opportunity that 2020 will bring.