(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. This is the second installment in the series.)

The southern Red River Valley received some overdue and much welcomed precipitation the night of June 7. While the rain event wasn’t nearly enough to turn around the area’s drought conditions, it did provide crops with a much needed shot of moisture.

But for Halstad, Minn.-based Bitker Farms, the rain event stayed south, missing them completely.

When asked about the status of his sugarbeets, Bitker Farms farm manager Kevin Olson said, “They are dry and need rain.”

Limited and uneven moisture this spring has led to uneven and spotty stands at Bitker Farms near Halstad, Minnesota and across the American Crystal Sugar Company growing region. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
Limited and uneven moisture this spring has led to uneven and spotty stands at Bitker Farms near Halstad, Minnesota and across the American Crystal Sugar Company growing region. (Mike Spieker / Agweek)
Planting began toward the end of April and wrapped up on May 1. The dry conditions have contributed to very uneven stands in the field.

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Growth stages varied from the four-leaf stage, down to newly emerged cotyledons. There are still areas in the field in which the beets have not yet emerged.

Olson made the first herbicide application on the field on Memorial Day. It was sprayed with Roundup, Stinger and Warrant lay-by.

The field did not have a barley cover crop. It was the only sugarbeet field at Bitker Farms that did not. In retrospect, Olson noted that there should have been a cover crop on the field, as wind events this spring have “dinged up” the beets.

The growing season was off to a great start for many growers in the Red River Valley. The dry spring made for near-perfect planting conditions and near-perfect timing to get the crop in. However, with no significant rain received at many farms yet this spring, moisture is desperately needed to keep the beet growing.