Farmers who grow sugarbeets for Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in 2021 harvested the highest tonnage per acre in the company’s 47-year history.

“We are going to harvest around 36.5 tons per acre. That’s a record by 6 tons,” said Todd Geselius, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-Op vice president of agriculture.

The Renville, Minnesota-based company’s previous record for tonnage per acre was set in 2017 when farmers harvested 30.3 tons, Geselius said.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative total sugarbeet production in 2021, as of early November, was estimated to be slightly less than 3.6 million tons, he said. About 95% of the company’s sugarbeets were harvested as of Nov. 3.

Farmers who grow sugarbeets for the company planted 121,385 acres of sugarbeets in 2021, but will have to leave about 20% of those in the field, Geselius said. Farmers will harvest about 97,000 acres of sugarbeets, which will result in the amount of production that the factory can effectively process.

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“With the factory running well, we’re going to be slicing into May. We just can’t go any further than that,” he said

The company was surprised that the crop produced such a large amount of sugarbeets because early on, the growing season was dry. Then rains started falling in late summer, and the crop turned around.

“There was just tremendous growth. The late season’s rain and the warm temperatures kept the beets growing,” Geselius said.

The amount of growth during that two-month period was unprecedented.

“We're very surprised. Nobody saw that coming. We thought in mid-August when we made our last prediction on our root samples that we were going to be about 30 tons per acre," he said. “Then it just rained and rained and stayed warm, and that kind of changed everything.”

Though rains during harvest aren’t uncommon, the exceptionally warm temperatures were, Geselius said.

While the warm temperatures delayed the start of the company’s stockpile harvest, the warm weather in early October, and the month before that, resulted in the sugarbeets putting on additional tonnage.