The 2012 crop year set several records for the Amalgamated Sugar Company, LLC. The first was a record per-acre yield of 35.5 tons, as compared to last year’s previous record yield of 34.7 tons. Total tons harvested set another record at more than 6.9 million tons. Sugar content looked to be above average, but an early October hard frost set the sugar so that average sugar content was at 16.98% — just barely higher than last year’s sugar content of 16.94%.
Early spring plantings were damaged by high winds and frosts in the eastern part of Idaho. There were more than 24,000 acres of replants out of 122,000 acres planted. Stand counts were lower than in 2011. The western districts of the production region did not have as many replants.
Water was plentiful, and the growing season was hot in the western areas. Insect and disease pressure was low to average across the region.
A lot of things can happen to a crop of beets; but enough “right things” happened in the 2012 growing season to allow production of the record crop. — John Schorr
American Crystal Sugar Company
Preparations for a record crop began with ideal fall weather in 2011, allowing for near-optimum conditions to apply fertilizer and complete tillage for excellent seedbeds in the spring of 2012. Planting began on April 10 and was 95% complete by May 1. Seedbed conditions were very good for germination and emergence in most districts. Plant populations were excellent with an average of 188 beets per 100 feet of row. Replants were only 2.8% and located primarily in the Drayton district. Most replanting was caused by high winds. Roundup Ready® varieties were planted on about 96% of the acreage.
Early season growth was much ahead of normal due to ideal growing degree days and good rainfall. Earliest-planted fields had the rows closed by mid-June, setting the stage for very high yields.
Rainfall was well below average in the entire growing area beginning in late July and through August and September. But despite the drought, the crop rooted to eight, nine or even 10 feet deep, utilizing stored soil water very effectively to maintain growth.
The drought brought some unusual pest problems that are rarely seen in our growing area. Root aphids caused serious damage in numerous fields in the drier areas. Yield losses of up to five to eight tons occurred in some fields. Root maggot populations were also high in the traditional locales of northeastern North Dakota.
Root rot diseases were variable; but in general, incidence and severity were lower in 2012. Fungicide use for Rhizoctonia control has increased greatly in recent years. Aphanomyces incidence and severity were low due to dry conditions. However, Fusarium incidence was near normal, with severe yield loss when fields were not planted to resistant varieties. Rhizoctonia was also severe in many fields with a history of infection.
Weed control was exceptionally good in most fields. A future concern is identification of some fields that appear to have glyphosate-resistant waterhemp and kochia present.
Prepile harvest began August 14 because of expected very high yields. Crop quality was excellent for the early start date. Stockpiling began on October 2 as temperatures cooled to levels that made long-term storage of the crop acceptable. Above-average rainfall and several snows in October and November created very difficult harvest conditions. Frost shutdowns were frequent in late October and November. Harvest was completed on November 21. This was the longest harvest on record from the early prepile start to a late finish. Yield was a record 27.1 tons per acre with a record 19.14% sugar content. — Allan Cattanach
Alberta’s 2012 beet crop was an excellent reward after a tough year negotiating a contract between growers and the company. Growers harvested a total of 827,000 metric tonnes (911,502 short tons) from 30,512 acres, for an average yield of over 27 metric tonnes (29.8 short tons) per acre. The quality rivaled that of last year’s crop with the factory average sugar being 19.3%. About 120,000 tonnes (nearly 132,300 short tons) of beets are ventilated for long-term storage.
The entire crop was planted to Roundup Ready sugarbeets. First planting date was April 14, and planting continued through the third week of May. A significant frost event on May 10 necessitated the replanting of close to 2,000 acres. Some early seeded fields also had poor stands, probably due to cool soil temperatures and very cool nighttime temperatures through most of April and May. Soil crusting was also an issue in some fields. The replants were completed by June 7.
Early June punished the area with several hailstorms and a tornado that passed through a portion of the growing area. An estimated 4,000 acres were severely impacted by these storms, with crop damage from hail resulting in 30-100% defoliation. Wind damage was also extensive. Irrigation pivots and wheel lines were damaged in the storms. Some fields experienced extreme flooding and erosion due to running water. Wind erosion became an issue for these hailed-out acres, and many growers cultivated in an attempt to prevent further damage.
Cutworm, root maggots and beet leaf miners were all observed this season. Early season use of insecticide and seed treatments limited crop loss from these pests. Root disease was evident in some fields, perhaps more than in previous years.
Throughout June and July, various storms continued to damage fields with hail, accompanied by heavy rainfall. Wet conditions affected the timing of glyphosate applications on some fields. But despite all of the weather impacts, row closure was evident in the majority of fields prior to July 1.
Summer finally arrived in southern Alberta in the first weeks of July. Growers maximized crop potential using irrigation during the hot weather. Fields started looking very promising at this point in the season, and a special crop was predicted.
Hot temperatures continued throughout July and August, resulting in a hectic irrigation schedule for many growers. Field staff started to suspect that the late-June yield estimates may have been conservative. Yellowing of the canopy became evident in some fields as August progressed.
Harvest began on September 19. A heavy rain on October 9 slowed the harvest for a few days. More than 5.5 inches of snow fell on October 23, slowing the harvest significantly.
As the snow melted, wetness became an issue in many fields. Repeated snowfalls and frost continued through the final days of October and into early November. Excessive amounts of mud caused the duration of harvest to be a real struggle for growers and piling ground staff.
A few acres at a time continued to be harvested whenever conditions allowed until November 21. Huge dirt lumps and deterioration of beets due to very cold conditions dictated the end of harvest 2012, with 170 acres being left in the ground. — Vanessa Bastura
Michigan Sugar Company
What a year! “Unbelievable” is a term often used when talking about the 2012 sugarbeet crop in Michigan.
It all started back on March 15 when the first field was planted. We had 98,000 acres — approximately 60% of the crop — planted under ideal conditions in March. It did not take long for the remaining acreage to be planted. By mid-April, all fields were planted and we were seeing very good emergence on the early planted beets. Historically, very few acres get planted in March and we hope to have all acres planted by late April.
The month of May arrived, and the stand counts and plant populations were the “best ever.” Everyone began talking about the crop’s potential. Our normal stand count over the previous four years was 176 beets per 100 feet of row. The average this year was 209 — 20% better than our historical average. We were truly blessed with an excellent start to the growing season.
In June, the once “absolutely beautiful” crop was being negatively influenced by some dry soil conditions. Some fields were showing signs of moisture stress from the dry soils. Rhizoctonia was beginning to develop, and there was a concern for development of Cercospora leafspot. The dry conditions continued, for the most part, well into July, and the extreme heat added to the moisture stress. The once “unbelievable” crop was now not so pretty.
On August 10, rainfall arrived with a vengeance. There were reports of rainfall in our west district on that day of anywhere from 5.5 inches all the way to over 10. It was a bit much; but with the extremely dry conditions previously, it did not take long for the excess to run off and the crop to respond in a positive manner to the replenished soil moisture.
Harvest started on August 20 at one factory site, August 27 at two other sites, and the last in Bay City on August 30. Our scheduled early delivery continued until October 20 when we opened delivery for long-term storage. Unfortunately, warm weather arrived two days later, and we were forced to stop harvest for five consecutive days. Over the five-day stretch (October 22- 26) the average high was 73 degrees with a record 78 degrees on October 25!
We returned to harvest on October 27, only to be rained out by Hurricane Sandy on October 30. The two-day rain event kept us out of the field again until November 4. At that time, we started to check the calendar date — we were only 49% harvested and we were several days into November! We were fortunate to avoid any severe nighttime temperatures, and harvest began to wind down by mid-November. The last load of beets was received on November 30.
Many records were set, including total number of beets received and average yield. Here are the 2012 numbers for Michigan Sugar Company:
• Harvested Acres – 162,611
• Average Yield – 29.22 T/A
• Final Tons – 4,751,048
• % Sugar – 18.66
• Purity – 95.50
This crop had a great start and a strong finish. The sugarbeets went into storage with a little extra tare; but overall, beet temperatures were good. — Paul Pfenninger
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative
Growers began planting the 2012 crop in early April. By month’s end, nearly the entire crop was planted. Biotech sugarbeets were planted for the fifth year on virtually all of the acreage. Weed control was very good all season long.
The crop made excellent progress during May and June. Plans were made in late May to prepare for a mid-August start. The July crop samples confirmed the advanced growth of the 2012 crop. The growing season of 2012 will be remembered for bright sunshine along with above-average temperatures from May through August.
Because of advanced crop size, preharvest was under way by August 14. Weather was not a factor in scheduling station deliveries during preharvest. From early August through the main harvest period, little to no rainfall was recorded in nearly all areas.
Main harvest started on October 3. It was a dry harvest with little-to-no moisture recorded in all Minn-Dak areas but the most northern. There was one heat shutdown and three freeze shutdowns during the main harvest period. Receiving stations had several record-breaking delivery days.
Harvest was completed on October 18, with a total of 3,058,045 tons harvested from 114,513 acres. The crop averaged 26.67 tons per acre with a record 19.09% sugar content, an 88.3% purity and 1.53 percent tare. — Christopher DeVries
Sidney Sugars, Inc.
Sidney Sugars agriculture staff began contracting sugarbeet acres in March of 2012. The winter preceeding this spring was very warm and dry. We had only a few small snowstorms. Spring temperatures remained warm with very little rain.
Growers started planting a week or two ahead of normal into mostly dry seedbeds. Some fields had just enough moisture to germinate the seeds. Many of our fields had to be irrigated for good emergence. The ones that didn’t get irrigated often had thinner stands or had to be replanted.
We went into summer with not the best of plant populations. The young sugarbeet fields struggled until they were irrigated. Our summer was hot and again dry, and growers had a constant schedule of irrigations. There was no let-up with the frequent watering of fields. If growers kept adequate moisture in the fields, with the constant heat the beets showed rapid growth.
Harvest started the last few days of September. After building inventory for the factory, harvest was stopped because of warm temperatures. The warm spell was broken by a storm system that deposited our most significant rain event of the year. Along with the storm, we had a couple nights of freezing temperatures that definitely locked in the sugar percent.
Our growers harvested a total of 32,918 acres. The crop broke a Sidney record with an average yield of 27.8 tons per acre. The average sugar percent was 17.99%, which was a little disappointing. However, beet purities were very good. The factory is having a good campaign and should slice out the middle of February. — Russ Fullmer
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
The 2012 season began with concerns about having adequate moisture to get the crop started, as the winter and early spring provided limited precipitation. Fortunately, the middle of April experienced reasonable rainfall, and by the end of the month nearly the entire crop was planted and had adequate moisture to start growing.
Nearly ideal rainfall amounts and timing continued through May and June. Temperatures remained warm throughout the spring, and the crop was off to a great start. A few fields experienced crusting and had to be replanted, but this was less than 2% of the planted acres.
The well-timed June rains had allowed the crop to grow rapidly with minimal root disease. By the end of June, the crop was closing its rows and looking good enough that many fields had already received their first Cercospora leafspot fungicide application. However, at this time the rains became more sporadic; and by the middle of July most of the growing area would have welcomed a significant rainfall event. Unfortunately, the rainfall remained sporadic, and only a few areas were lucky enough to catch meaningful precipitation. This dry period continued until after harvest was completed in mid- to late October.
Despite the dry conditions, the crop continued to grow rapidly. This rapid growth, coupled with a planting tolerance of up to 110% of stock acres, facilitated the decision to begin our prepile harvest on August 14 — the earliest ever for SMBSC. With virtually no rainfall during August and September, prepile harvest went quite smoothly. By the third week in September, it started to become apparent that the dry conditions were limiting the continued growth of the beets and driving sugar content upward.
With the slowed growth of the beets, it was decided to utilize the cool temperatures during the night and early morning hours at the end of September to begin piling in earnest. This practice continued for several days until the daytime highs allowed for round-the-clock harvesting.
There were a few mornings with frost shutdowns, but by then 85% of the beets had been harvested. The remaining tons were piled in a few days, and the harvest was completed October 22 with a final yield of 26.40 tons per acre and SMBSC record 17.69% sugar.
Beet storage has been good through the end of November despite some less-than-desirable temperatures. We are expecting to finish slicing beets sometime during the first half of April. — Todd Geselius
Spreckels Sugar Company
Planting began for the 2012 Imperial Valley crop the first week of September 2011, with temperatures above 110 degrees. Some of the growers held off planting, hoping the weather would cool down. But by mid-September the temperatures had not cooled, and most growers began planting the crop. We received some heavy rains in the southern part of the growing area that delayed planting and caused some replanting, due to crusting, before the crop came up.
October was hotter than normal with temperatures in the 105-degree range and planting in full swing. Late October brought cooler weather with temperature in the mid 90s. Insect pressure was high, and growers had to control white flies, flea beetles and armyworms.
November finally brought some cooler temps, in the mid 80s and low 90s. The crop was growing very well with the ideal temperatures. December brought some cooler-than-normal temperatures, with lows the first part of the month right at the freezing point. Root samples taken the first of the month showed average growth and above-average quality.
January was another cool month with some freezing temperatures the first of the month. Again, root samples showed average growth and above-average quality. February was cooler than normal, and the root samples showed average growth and above-average quality. March turned out warmer than normal, and root samples showed average growth and quality.
Harvest started April 1 with yields a little above average and quality about average. The rest of April was warmer than normal, and yields continued to climb above average. May was hot, with temperatures above 100 degrees, and saw the crop growing very well. Quality began slipping due to the hotter-than-normal temperatures. The estimate was raised by half a ton because of the above average yields seen.
June was another hot month with temperatures above 110 degrees, and the estimate was raised another 0.7 ton, bringing it up to 44.7 tons per acre. July yields continued to climb and quality slipped a bit as the estimate was raised to 45.5 tons. Temperatures were hot for the entire month of July.
Yields were increasing as the harvest finished up on the 14th of August. Final numbers for the 2012 harvest were 46.5 tons per acre (a record yield for the Brawley factory), sugar content of 15.98% and purity of 88.35%.
It was a great crop for the Brawley growing area in spite of the lower-than-normal quality. The growers did an excellent job delivering a clean, well- topped beet to the receiving station. Thanks to all for the hard work during the 2012 sugarbeet harvest. We are looking forward to another good crop for the 2013 harvest. — Ron Tharp
Western Sugar Cooperative
The 2012 crop year started off dry across all Western Sugar regions with above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.
Irrigation water supplies were above average and allowed the crop to have a full irrigation, except for the Front Range of Colorado. The combined heat and irrigation created a record sugarbeet crop.
There were very few disease issues in all growing regions. Also, below-normal seasonal hail damage helped create a bumper crop. Insect pressure from armyworms in Nebraska and Colorado and spider mites in Montana caused some yield reductions.
The Rocky Mountain region experienced good fall growing conditions until a hard freeze occurred in the first week of October, causing the sugar percentage to be locked for the remainder of the harvest.
Early harvest started on September 9. Regular harvest conditions were good in all regions, with sugarbeets going into the pile clean and cool.
Yields in the northern region averaged 28.8 tons per acre, with a 17.68% sugar. Nebraska averaged 29.9 tons with a 17.96% sugar and Colorado 32.4 tons with a 16.70% sugar. The cooperative averaged 10,418 pounds of sugar per acre, which is a WSC record.
Sugarbeet processing is scheduled to be complete in mid- to late February. — Jerry Darnell
Wyoming Sugar Company
The Wyoming Sugar Company and growers experienced a great year. We started out with concerns about seed variety availability and the future of GMO sugarbeets, but our attention quickly turned to the dry weather.
Our growing season began with very pleasant mild spring weather, but quickly turned hot and dry. Some irrigation districts sent out probable water shortage warnings; but when it was all said and done, our growing areas received adequate irrigation water to keep the crop going. Keeping up with the irrigation demands placed by the hot dry weather was the number-one issue for growing the 2012 beet crop.
Our harvest began in mid-September. The warm temperatures slowed harvest until early October, when temperatures cooled off nicely and harvest could run at a normal schedule. It turned out to be a very nice dry harvest that concluded by Halloween.
The 2012 processing campaign is going very well. Many new improvements and upgrades in the factory have really aided our processing ability. We have projected that we will finish slicing beets in the few days prior to Christmas.
Wyoming Sugar Company’s final 2012 crop numbers came in at 29.3 tons per acre and 17.89% sugar content. — Myron Casdorph