“According to Richard Fitzsimons, executive director of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association, the number of migrant workers has dropped in recent years. In 1977 an estimated 9,153 migrants came to the valley for employment. In 1978 the number dropped to 7,015, and fell again in 1979 to 6,750.
“While many growers still prefer to employ migrants, particularly for weeding operations, some growers are planting ‘no-labor’ beets. These growers are using spaced planting, mechanical thinning and herbicide, Fitzsimons explained.
“Jose Balderas, executive director of the North Dakota Migrant council, estimates 1,200 to 1,600 families will come to North Dakota this year for work. The majority of families, mainly from Texas, California and Florida, will go to the Red River Valley, and some to the Williston Basin in western North Dakota. . . .
“Growers have set minimums for thinning and hoeing operations, with the first operation set at $30 per acre and the second operation at $19.50. The total becomes $49.50 per acre, with many farmers paying above those rates.”
High-Speed Cultivator Designed for Sugarbeets
— “The past two summers have produced an unusual sight moving through Ralph Larson’s sugarbeet fields near East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
“While a traditional tractor towing a row-crop cultivator straight and true down the rows of young beets is far from uncommon, Larson’s cultivator provides the observer with a surprise. His cultivator is seen ‘bee-lining’ it through the field, and Larson doesn’t even have his hands on the tractor steering wheel, but is instead turned around to see how the cultivator is cultivating.
“For two seasons now, Larson has been working with Clair Conn, a distributor of Brillion at Redwood Falls, Minnesota, to test out a new precision cultivator designed for sugarbeets. At first cultivation, it hugs the row close, cultivating at 2-1/2” on each side of the rows of seedling sugar beets.
“A special guidance system is what makes this a precision, high-speed cultivator.
“Guide markers on the beet planter open up a pair of guide furrows in which the tractor’s front tires steer the tractor and cultivator through the field at first cultivation. Heavy guide coulters and markers on the cultivator reopen the guide furrows for successive cultivations. The guide markers, or stingers, are mounted by a special clamp on the rear of the backbone on as many gangs as desired. Four guide markers and two guide wheel assemblies are standard on this new Brillion BRP-1222 twelverow unit. . . .
“ ‘The important aspect of the Brillion,’ says Larson, ‘is the parallel linkage unit. It keeps the backbone of the cultivator straight. It is made heavy and in such a way that there is no existing wobble.’ . . .
“Larson could only cultivate at 4.5 to 5 mph with his previous cultivator, especially at first cultivation when beets are small. But with the precision cultivator, his minimum speed is 4.5, and at last cultivation he runs 7 mph or better.”
‘Fuel Beet’ Has Good Potential
— “Sugarbeet breeders Devon L. Doney and J. Clair Theurer of USDA’s Science and Education Administration Agricultural Research, Logan, Utah, are in the process of developing hybrid sugarbeets for the specific use of making alcohol fuel.
“In comparison to other plantings considered for production of alcohol fuel in the U.S., sugarbeets have the greatest potential. Presently, the easiest and cheapest means of producing alcohol fuel from organic material is to extract it from the fermentable sugars that make up 40 to 50 percent of a sugarbeet plant. Because of this potential, the hybrid sugarbeet has earned the name ‘fuel beet.’ . . .
“With current conditions, sugarbeets represent a potential production of 400 to 500 gallons of alcohol fuel per acre at a net cost of $1.51 per gallon. While these figures do not make the fuel beet appear economical at this time, they do indicate that such production is within early striking range. . . .
“Before fuel beets can make any type of impact on the energy crisis, improvement is necessary in all aspects of production of alcohol fuel from sugarbeets. The need for a new type of beet capable of yielding more fermentable sugars per acre than any present variety is mandatory.
“Doney and Theurer are confident that their fuel beet will provide the necessary improvements. ‘We think it should be easier to develop a beet for fuel than for sugars,’ says Doney. ‘In breeding for a fuel beet we’ll be aiming at increasing sugar quantity in the beet without having to worry about the quality factors that affect sugar crystallization.’ ”