The 2021 sugarbeet season was challenging from the get-go, but in the end, despite a year fraught with adverse growing conditions, American Crystal Sugar Co. growers produced a decent crop.

As of early November, with the vast majority of the crop harvested, the company’s farmers had produced 11.77 million tons of sugarbeets, said Steve Rosenau, American Crystal Sugar Co. director of agriculture Yields averaged 28.7 tons per acre, he said.

Last year, the production of American Crystal Sugar Co. , based in Moorhead, Minnesota, totaled 10 million tons. The downside of the dry weather in the fall of 2020 that allowed farmers to finish the harvest in a record 16 days was that sugarbeets lacked the moisture that would have resulted in added tonnage.

American Crystal sugarbeet production in 2019 also was below average. That year, excessive rains, followed by freezing temperatures, resulted in farmers leaving about 30% or 115,000 of their acreage unharvested.

In 2019, American Crystal Sugar Co. growers produced 6.5 million tons of sugarbeets.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Sugarbeet piles at the American Crystal Sugar Co. station near Reynolds, North Dakota, were growing larger on Oct. 26, as farmers delivered their crop throughout the day.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
Sugarbeet piles at the American Crystal Sugar Co. station near Reynolds, North Dakota, were growing larger on Oct. 26, as farmers delivered their crop throughout the day. Ann Bailey / Agweek
Production in 2021 appears to be comparable to 2018, when farmers harvested an average of 28.9 tons per acre, the third highest in the cooperative’s history.

Several inches of rain in the late summer and fall of 2021, combined with warm temperatures encouraged root growth. Temperatures were so unseasonably warm that the onset of this year’s harvest, which was scheduled to begin Oct. 1, was delayed by about 10 days.

The delayed harvest was just one of many challenges American Crystal Sugar Co. growers faced in the 2021 growing season. In the spring, dry conditions caused poor germination in some fields. To assure that there would be an adequate supply of sugar beets to process in 2021, American Crystal sugar initiated a voluntary program in which farmers could plant additional acres if they chose to do so. The additional acres brought 2021 acreage to 410,000, Rosenau said.

A steady stream of trucks were leaving and entering the American Crystal Sugar Co. piling station near Reynolds, North Dakota, on Oct. 26, 2021.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
A steady stream of trucks were leaving and entering the American Crystal Sugar Co. piling station near Reynolds, North Dakota, on Oct. 26, 2021. Ann Bailey / Agweek
After the crop was planted, wind and dry conditions also created production problems, and it appeared that the crop wouldn’t yield as well as the company had hoped.

However, in summer and early fall, several inches of much-needed rain fell in the Red River Valley,

“That was desperately needed, and it turned our crop around,” Rosenau said. Tonnage grew by about 2.7 per acre after the rain.

“It went from being a less than average crop to about an average crop,” he said.

Sugar content, in general, is lower in the southern Red River Valley, and higher in the north, but on average is about 17.9%, Rosenau said.

“All in all, I think it’s a good, solid crop,” he said.