(Editor's note: This growing season Mike Spieker will be following the progress of a single American Crystal Sugar sugarbeet field in the Red River Valley, covering it from planting to spraying to harvest with regular updates, photos, and other notes throughout the planting season.)

Bitker Farms’ 36 acre field is located on the Minnesota side of the central Red River Valley. It lies just off of Minnesota Highway 200, four miles west of Ada. The previous crop was spring wheat. Fertilizer (Urea-ammonia sulfate-phosphate) was laid down last fall.

“Conditions were great for planting this year. Other than one short shutdown one afternoon for rain, everything went smooth and steady,” said Bitker Farms farm manager Kevin Olson.

Olson said they started planting their 2,020 acres beets on April 24 and completed the afternoon of May 1. They’ve got good soil moisture for now to get things going, but they will definitely some more soon, said Olson.

Sugarbeet seed planted at Bitker Farms near Ada, Minnesota on Saturday, May 1st. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
Sugarbeet seed planted at Bitker Farms near Ada, Minnesota on Saturday, May 1st. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
This year was the first since 2017 that American Crystal Sugar Company growers were able to start planting sugarbeets in the month of April. That was also the last time the co-op enjoyed a 30-plus ton crop.

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“Planting was pretty easy going this year. No mud holes to contend with or anything like that. It was a real nice planting season,” Olson continued. “It’s a good feeling to get most of the crop planted in April. It’s nice to get ahead of the game.”

Seeds are sprouting but the field is still a ways away from seeing the beet emerge.

Planting progress:

Carter Olson plants the final acres of 2021 sugarbeets at Bitker Farms near Ada, Minnesota. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
Carter Olson plants the final acres of 2021 sugarbeets at Bitker Farms near Ada, Minnesota. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
A combined 97% of sugarbeets are planted in North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan and Idaho, according to the USDA’s Crop Progress report released on May 12. Those four states make up 85% of the total sugarbeet acres in the U.S.

Idaho is 95% completed, ahead of 86% last year and the five-year average of 89%.

Michigan is 98% completed, well ahead of last year’s pace of 84% and the five-year average of 72%.

Minnesota is all but finished at 99%. That is nearly double the pace of last year’s 51% and is ahead of the five-year average of 66%.

Dry conditions in North Dakota allowed growers to jumped from 66% complete last week to 95% complete this week. At this point last year, just 33% of the crop had been planted. North Dakota’s five-year average for this week is 66%.