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These pages contain our 25th annual sugarbeet crop summary. All current North American sugarbeet production regions are represented in the reports included here.
The Sugarbeet Grower wishes to extend our sincere thanks to those individuals listed who submitted the report for their company.
Amalgamated Sugar Company
Crop year 2011 started with a cool, wet spring. Many growers were unable to get into their fields until late April. There were some late frosts and severe weather conditions; but there were fewer replants, with 13,285 acres beets having to be replanted as compared with almost 53,000 acres of replants in 2010. Even with a late- planted crop, stands were excellent.
The water supply for irrigation was good. Summer growing conditions were such that the crop grew well.
A late, warm fall allowed the beets to add tonnage so that when the crop was harvested it ended up at a record-setting 34.67-tons-per-acre average for the company. Sugar content was at 16.94%, which was lower than was expected since growers had put extra effort into the management of their nitrogen. However, even with lower sugars, brei nitrate levels were low, which allows the factories to extract the sugar more easily.
Storage conditions have been excellent to this point. More ventilated and covered piles have been constructed, allowing for more-efficient management of those piles that are not covered and ventilated. We expect to have all of the beets processed by the 20th of March. — John Schorr
American Crystal Sugar Co.
The 2011 growing season was one of numerous weather extremes that made achieving an optimum yield and quality crop most challenging.
A very wet fall of 2010 was followed by an extremely wet spring in most of the Red River Valley, seriously delaying timely planting. Planting began on April 27 but was not completed until June 20. Less than 1,700 acres were replanted.
Seedling growth was slowed due to very wet field conditions and cool temperatures for several weeks in May and June. The Moorhead district in particular, as well as parts of other districts, experienced very high rainfall from April through most of July. In contrast, the Crookston factory district experienced a growing season with rainfall that was 10 to 11 inches below normal. Roundup Ready® beets were planted on about 85% of the acres in 2011.
The very wet growing season caused severe root rot, especially in the Moorhead district and parts of the East Grand Forks, Drayton and Hillsboro districts. Field abandonment totaled several thousand acres, with extremely low yields due to severe root rot and water damage rendering these fields unfit for long-term storage. Shareholders used liming and well-managed fungicide programs to minimize root rot crop losses.
Root maggot populations were high in traditional areas in northeastern North Dakota. Growers achieved very good control with proper pesticide applications.
August, September and October were remarkable for near-record low rainfall totals for nearly all of the Red River Valley. Several high-temperature records were established during September and early October.
Prepile started on September 6, with full stockpile harvest beginning October 1. Stockpiling ceased because of much-above-normal temperatures for nearly the entire first week of October. After record yields in 2010, the 2011 yields were disappointing at an average of 20.7 tons per acre (down 22% from the prior year). Crop quality was a respectable 18.04% sugar, but sugar loss to molasses in 2011 was much above average at 1.27%. — Allan Cattanach
Alberta’s 2011 beet crop amazed most of us. Growers harvested 784,500 metric tons (864,500 short tons) from 33,450 acres for an average yield of 23.5 metric tons per acre (25.8 short tons). The crop averaged 19.35% sugar — a record for Alberta. The impact on processing has been very positive up to the date of this writing.
Planting (100% to Roundup Ready varieties) commenced on April 23 but was interrupted by wet conditions, with the bulk of planting falling two to three weeks behind normal. With repeated moisture events following planting, stands were excellent — but cool conditions were a concern for crop development.
Many growers applied a moderate top dressing of nitrogen to counter suspected losses due to leaching and denitrification. Sporadic cutworm treatment and some replanting was required, growers being caught off-guard since glyphosate applications are now later than previous applications of conventional herbicide (which often contained preventative insecticide).
Hail affected about 1,400 acres with 25 to 75% defoliation in late June. Early expectations were less than optimistic, with mid-July row closure predominating. But warm, dry conditions from July through harvest turned the crop around. Depletion of nitrogen became apparent, with earlier-than-normal yellowing of the canopy on a significant proportion of fields, many by early August.
The key to repeating this year’s excellent results could lie in more-conservative nitrogen applications, with a reliance on the soil’s capacity to release nutrients when warm conditions develop in conjunction with improving yield potential.
Controlled harvest commenced on September 12. It proceeded without interruption, as participation only kept pace with slice due to priority being given to other crops.
With only a four-day wet spell in early October, dry conditions prevailed until the harvest was completed on November 3. — Gerhard Wall
Michigan Sugar Company
The 2011 crop year was in stark contrast to the previous couple years. It all started with a wet spring and a late planting season. We did plant our first field on April 11, but only planted about 37,000 acres in April because of very wet conditions. Most of our beets were planted the week of May 9, with some of the last fields being planted in early June. (In 2010 we had 40,000 acres planted in March and our entire crop planted by mid-April.)
Many of the April-planted beets did not survive the wet conditions, and 8.9% of our total acreage was replanted in mid- to late May. The late planting prompted our board of directors to allow over-plant up to 103% of base shares. When the planting season finally ended, a total of 163,698 acres were in the ground.
The growing season was uneventful, and harvest started on September 14. We harvested 21% of our crop during early delivery, which ended on October 21. Long-term storage began on October 22.
Harvest was interrupted by wet soil conditions (which did not happen in the previous year). We struggled with difficult conditions until early November, when we had a dry spell that allowed us to harvest the biggest share of our tonnage. The last field of beets was harvested November 18, and the last Maus beets from a field clamp were delivered on November 23.
We were down a bit on yield, but quality was good. Overall, we harvested 162,845 acres with an average yield of 24.07 tons per acre and a grower sugar of 18.16%.
Storage conditions have been good through mid-December, and we plan to slice our last beets in early March. — Paul Pfenninger
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative
Minn-Dak growers began planting the 2011 crop in early May. The delayed start was due to a cool and wet April. Planting of the southern portion of the growing area was impacted by wet field conditions into mid-June. Biotech sugarbeets were planted for the fourth year on virtually all of the acreage. Weed control was very good all season long.
Despite the late planting, the crop made very good progress up until July, when excessive rainfall and very warm temperatures put the crop under considerable stress. This hot, wet period did not subside until early August. By then there was considerable damage done to the crop. The July and August samples indicated a below-average crop in the works.
Due to the reduced crop size, preharvest was delayed until September 21. Main harvest began on October 3, but was then delayed due to a long period of above-average temperatures. Fortunately, the entire month of October was one of the driest on record. Full harvest resumed October 13 and was completed, with only two minor frost interruptions, on October 24.
Minn-Dak growers harvested a total of 1,954,638 tons from 120,516 acres in 2011. The crop averaged 16.2 tons per acre with a 17.6% sugar content, an 88.3% purity and 2.1% tare. It was a good year in terms of crop quality, but disappointing in terms of overall volume and average yield. — Chris DeVries
Sidney Sugars, Inc.
The Sidney Sugars agriculture staff started contracting acreage around the middle of April, contracting a total of 32,926 acres. The previous winter was very wet, and the ground had a heavy snow cover. The mountains received record snowfall. Temperatures slowly warmed up, melting snow and leaving wet fields.
Growers struggled to begin planting the 2011 sugarbeet crop. Spring rains also set back planting. As the snow melted, low-land flooding occurred. Many fields were not planted because of excess moisture as late as the end of May. We also had planted fields under water for a long period of time. Between fields too wet and flooding, growers lost over 2,600 acres.
The crop went into the summer trying to catch up on growth. Plant stands were good, but crop development was behind. Late June produced an estimate of 23.4 tons per acre. Root samples indicated the estimate was valid.
The weather was good throughout the summer, except in the Savage district south of the factory. This district received a hailstorm every weekend for four straight weeks. Growers sprayed fields with fungicides and did a nice job of controlling Cercospora.
Harvest was set to begin October 1. Growers harvested just enough beets to start the factory and were then shut down because of heat. The last of September and the first week of October brought record-high temperatures. Harvest finally started the second week of October and continued for the next two weeks. It was a dry harvest, and the beets went into the pile in very good condition.
Final yield averaged 25.2 tons per acre with a 17.57% sugar. Sidney Sugars growers harvested a total of 29,344 acres. The warm fall temperatures added tons to the crop and held the sugar percent down. The purities in the beets are very good, and the beets are processing well. The factory should slice out by the end of January. — Russ Fullmer
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
Planting of the 2011 SMBSC crop was delayed due to excessive rainfall in April and May. Approximately 20% of the acres were planted in April, with the majority of the remaining acreage planted in mid- to late May and the last few in early June. Despite the difficulties, just over 120,000 acres were planted.
Excessive rainfall continued until the first part of July, resulting in more root rot than normal. Both Aphanomyces and Rhizoctonia were common in tested root samples.
Mid-July was free of rainfall but very hot and humid. This allowed Cercospora leafspot (CLS) to get started in many fields. Overall, the growers did an excellent job of maintaining their CLS fungicide program, keeping this disease from reducing their crop even further.
August, September and October rainfall was well below average — which also limited the growth of the crop. In mid-September we experienced a freeze that finished off the corn and soybeans and damaged some beet leaves in areas where the plants were already under other stresses. This resulted in some regrowth of leaves late in the season.
Harvest went well, except for a lengthy heat shutdown at the beginning of October. In the end, SMBSC growers harvested just over 119,000 acres at an average yield of 17.2 tons per acre and 16.53% sugar. The 2011 crop was somewhat disappointing, but it went into storage in as good a condition as possible. — Todd Geselius
Spreckels Sugar Company
Imperial Valley growers began planting on September 6, 2010, under normal temperatures for the area. Temperatures were around 105 degrees, so most growers held back until the middle of September to start planting the crop.
Cultivation began on September 27, 2010, with normal temperatures. October temperatures also were normal for the Imperial Valley, with highs around 100 degrees. Planting was in full swing and was completed by the end of the month. The final planted acreage tally was 25,633, with 1,640 acres of replants, mainly due to light stands.
November conditions were ideal with excellent weed control, except in fields that had wild beet infestations. Weeding crews were sent through some of those fields three times during the winter to try and keep them clean.
December temperatures were a little cooler than normal. Root samples taken the first of the month showed normal growth and quality. January likewise had temperatures that were cooler than normal. Root samples taken in January showed normal growth and quality.
February was another cooler-than- normal month. Root samples showed yields were normal, but the quality was less than the five-year average. Malva and wild beets began showing above the canopy and were sprayed with Upbeet® to control the malva. March was another cool month for us, with samples showing normal growth and lower-than-average quality.
Harvest began on April 1 with yields that were typical. While sugar contents were a little below normal, they averaged above 17.5%. By the end of the month, the yield estimate was raised from 41.5 tons per acre to 42.5 tons. April temperatures held at below normal by five to 10 degrees.
May had ideal digging conditions with cooler-than-average temperatures. Yields continued to climb, and the quality held even. The estimate was raised another ton to 43.5 by the end of the month.
June saw more-normal temperatures, even though they were still below average. Yields were climbing, and the quality was holding steady.
July finally brought normal temperatures. Yields continued to climb, while the quality began to decline due to the hot temperatures. The average yield estimate was raised by another ton to 44.5 tons.
August was another hot month as harvest wound down. Harvest was completed on August 9, with a final yield of 44.62 tons per acre, sugar content of 16.79% and purity of 88.95%. Our hats are off to the growers of the Imperial Valley for a very good harvest and delivering a high-quality crop for processing. — Ron Tharp
Western Sugar Cooperative
The 2011 crop year started off cool and damp across all regions of Western Sugar. The below-normal temperatures limited crop progress the first part of the growing season, but the above-normal precipitation helped create excellent plant populations.
Irrigation water supplies were above average, and water had to be released from the reservoirs — causing minor flood damage to some sugarbeet fields and irrigation river diversions.
The growing season brought very few disease issues. Growers in all areas continue to see increased sugar yields with the cyst nematode-resistant sugarbeet varieties.
The Rocky Mountain region experienced a great fall season, allowing the beet crop to continue to increase sugar production for the majority of October. The favorable weather allowed the sugarbeet crop to make up for the poor spring weather conditions.
Early harvest began on September 26. Regular harvest conditions were great in all areas until October 26, when cold temperatures and snow hit the region. The cooperative had 87% of the sugarbeet crop harvested by the 26th. The remaining beet acres were piled and processed in November.
Yields in the northern region averaged 27.52 tons per acre, with 17.22% sugar. Nebraska came in at 24.96 tons with a 16.89% sugar, while Colorado averaged 29.32 tons and 16.33% sugar.
Sugarbeet processing is scheduled to be complete by mid- to late February. — Jerry Darnell
Wyoming Sugar Company
Wyoming Sugar Company is now totally grower owned, ending our struggle to maintain the necessary acreage base to operate our facility. However, high sugar prices and a strong demand for sugar also helped leave us with a very desirable demand for beet acres this year.
Our growing area experienced an unusually cool spring in 2011, accompanied by above-normal precipitation. Most of our sugarbeet planting was very timely; but the cold weather did severely stifle emergence. Yet while it may have slowed emergence, it did not hurt our stands. On the whole, our fields had plant stands as good as I have ever seen.
Summer growing weather was very moderate, which really helped the crop.
Harvest was divided into three categories: too warm, too wet and too cold. Harvest began on October 3 with hot, dry conditions. The first week was impeded by warm temperatures that caused us to regulate station hours and slow down harvest.
We received three inches of rain at the beginning of the second week, which slowed harvest again. By late that week, most growers were once again harvesting — just to be slowed down again by another storm system early in the third week.
Harvest got steadily better until freezing temps came at the tail end of digging in early November. Harvest concluded on November 8.
The beets have stored quite well. We feel that the management of the piles and good harvest protocol were very beneficial toward getting our crop processed in a good condition.
Wyoming Sugar’s 2011 crop came in at an average 27 tons per acre and 17.57% sugar. — Myron Casdorph
Don Lilleboe is editor of 'The Sugarbeet Grower' and 'Gilmore Sugar Manual.'