By Todd Geselius | Vice President of Agriculture for SMBSC
It was another challenging year for Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. With another cold and wet spring, planting was delayed. The majority of beets were planted within three windows of opportunity. Approximately one third of the acres were planted at the end of April and during the first week in May, another third were planted in the middle of May, and the last third planted at the end of May and beginning of June.The month of June remained wet across most the growing area and Cercospora leafspot (CLS) fungicide applications began around the fourth of July. Growers worked extremely hard at maintaining control of the disease throughout the growing season and were largely successful in keeping fields green. A short respite from the persistent rain in early August helped dry things out, which slowed down the disease progress for a little while. By the time harvest began, most of the fields were still green.
Pre-pile was delayed until mid-September to allow the crop to mature as much as possible. Rain continued sporadically throughout pre-pile and into main harvest, which began October 7. Growers battled muddy conditions throughout harvest. By October 28, the Cooperative was approximately 80 percent harvested when cold temperatures enveloped the area. The beets harvested after this date were frozen and had a much reduced storage life compared to the previously harvested beets. Despite the difficult, muddy conditions greater than 98 percent of the expected acres were harvested. The remaining acres were simply too wet to get harvested. Due to the shortened growing season, along with challenges from weeds, diseases and harvest conditions, the 2019 crop ended with a yield of 23.4 tons per acre and a sugar content of 15.63 percent. Considering the multiple challenges the year presented, it was not a terrible result.