Reports From All North American Sugar Beet Growing Regions
The Amalgamated Sugar Company
The 2016 crop year began with a near perfect early spring. Virtually all growers established uniform, healthy sugarbeet plant populations in their fields with minimal replanted acres. The momentum for ideal sugarbeet growing conditions continued into the summer with moderate daytime temperatures. These temperatures helped to reduce stress on the sugarbeet crop which can sometimes hamper optimal growth and sugar production. All the normal diseases were present, but lacked environmental conditions conducive for optimal disease development.
Favorable environmental conditions, coupled with good grower disease management strategies, contributed to significant curbing of major disease effects on the sugarbeet crop. Great weather conditions continued through late summer into fall. This allowed sugarbeets to continue to grow, accumulating both tons and sugar, right up to the time they were harvested. Significant rain events in October challenged some growers to complete harvest. The 2016 crop year ended as a great year for sugarbeet growers, setting records at an average of 41.4 tons per acre and 18.04 percent tare lab sugar. The sugarbeets are storing and processing well. – Greg Dean
American Crystal Sugar Company
Planting for the American Crystal Sugar Company shareholders started early in the Red River Valley of the North, with 95% of the crop planted from mid-April through the first week of May. Wind, freeze, and soil crusting issues took its toll on the plant population causing 6% of the total acreage to be replanted. The north half of the valley received higher than average rainfall throughout the growing season, initiating more root disease witnessed in many years. That necessitated the need to assess fields for active root rot and evaluate and clear the destruction of 3% of planted acres. Cercospora Leafspot (CLS) was present at some of the highest levels witnessed since the 1998 crop, being more prevalent in the south, with continued concerns of current chemistries able to effectively manage this leaf pathogen. Glyphosate resistant weeds continue to spread further from the south and ranging into the northern regions, creating great concern about the future of Roundup Ready weed control.
Pre-harvest commenced August 16 with wet and above average temperatures, which caused issues getting an adequate supply to the factories to slice. A well-above average yielding crop in the south, with an average yielding crop in north was the scenario for this harvest campaign. In terms of heat and growth potential (GDD - Growing Degree Days), the 2016 growing season outpaced the 2015 crop compared to the 10 and 30 year averages for our region, pushing the company root yields, overall, to the highest yield per acre crop in company history at 30.4 tons per acre (with a 17.02% sucrose content), second only to last year’s previous record crop yield of 27.9 tons per acre (with 17.8% sucrose content). Sugar content trended lower due to well-hydrated sugarbeets, combined with higher soil mineralization of available nitrogen, and lower plant populations resulting from challenges of the spring weather. The 2016 Recoverable Sugar per Acre (RSA) was also a new company record at just under 9,700 lbs. of sucrose produced per acre (second only to the 2012 crop) and for overall company tons harvested, the 2016 crop was second largest crop harvested by the company at just under 11,800,000 tons of sugarbeets. – Tyler Grove
Michigan Sugar Company
Michigan Sugar Company’s 2016 crop was planted for the most part in mid-April and enjoyed a tremendous start! Stands were terrific, temperatures were ideal and rainfall was adequate through June. Things changed drastically in mid-July through mid-August where we found ourselves with little to no rainfall throughout our growing region.
Our crop suffered greatly for the better part of a month and then a hot humid late August/early September exposed our crop to a rather severe leafspot complex in the forms of Cerscospera, bacterial and Aleternaria. The weather combined, with leafspot disease, destroyed our sugar potential but late rains gave is adequate tonnage.
Permanent piling took place from late October thru mid-November where beets were stored in very good condition. The crop yielded 31 ton per acre with a 15.85 percent sugar on an acreage base of just over 157,000 acres.
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative
Sugarbeet seed issue took place March 28, 29, 30, 31, and April 1. The planting level for the 2016 crop was set at 1.55 acres per share of stock with a 0.05 tolerance. Planting was underway the second week of April and ramped up rapidly due to favorable soil conditions. By mid-April 50,000 acres (0.72 acres per share) had been planted. By the end of April, 105,000 acres had been planted. Rainfall was timely for the planting of the 2016 crop which led to excellent germination and emergence. We had significant freeze events May 14 and 15 when temperatures dropped to the upper twenties. Little damage was noted on emerged and subterranean seedlings. There was 3,500 acres replanted out of the total 115,000 acres planted. Replant was primarily due to wind and crust and, to a much lesser extent, frost.
Weed control this past season saw a significant departure from exclusive post emerge glyphosate due to concerns of tolerant weed species, primarily waterhemp. Soil applied herbicides and tank mixes were common this past season and will likely be the norm going forward. Waterhemp’s reach and expanse greatly increased from 2015.
Our primary insect challenge year in and year out is the sugarbeet root maggot which impacts our northern tier growing area. This year there was little damage in that area. Soil borne diseases were not an issue early in the growing season. All of the 2016 sugarbeet seed was treated for Rhizoctonia. Aphanomyces had very limited impact this past growing season.
Crop samples in July indicated an outstanding tonnage crop was in the works. Plans were underway for an August 16th start to harvest. Along with the early start, the decision was made to set a tentative corral on harvested acres at 15%. That meant only 85% of the acres of record as of August 10th were eligible for harvest. The early harvest period confirmed the crop could yield in the low 30 tons per acre range. Rainfall throughout the preharvest season pushed the crop along and kept it well hydrated. A major concern was the impact of Cercospora leafspot this past season. In spite of five to six applications of foliar fungicide many fields had disappointing levels of control.
Main harvest was underway Thursday, October 6th at 7 am. On Sunday, October 23rd the corral was reduced from 15% to 12%. The 2016 harvest was rapid and for the most part dry. MDFC growers harvested an estimated 100,817 acres and delivered a total of 3,264,586 tons of sugarbeets. The crop averaged 15.7 percent sugar content, 88.0 percent purity, had a tare of 2.2 percent and yielded 32.3 tons per acre. – Tom Knudsen
Rogers Sugar / Lantic Inc.
Planting began in Alberta on April 15th, and carried on until about May 5th. Irrigation availability was a limiting factor, with most districts receiving water in the last week of April. 28,644 acres were planted, with approximately 189 being replanted due to wind damage and herbicide carryover.
As soil conditions were dry, irrigation commenced immediately on most farms as water became available, producing good stands in most fields. Insect pressure was minimal compared to many years, with some growers putting on precautionary applications of Decis 5EC for lower levels of flea beetle and cutworm. Temperatures were slightly below those we experienced in 2015, but still provided warm days with fair amounts of sunlight. Row closure was generally complete by the last week of June, and hail damage was minimal through the summer months. Only a few sporadic hail events were noted, impacting nominal acres.
The summer was characterized by warm, partially clouded days, differing from the hot, sunny summer of 2015. This warm weather was short lived through harvest, as October brought cool, rainy weather, and snow.
Early harvest began on September 15, with 5 of our 7 receiving stations open. Main harvest began October 1st, and with it came an abundance of rain and snow. Piling grounds were closed for the second week of October, and were re-opened as growers attempted to pull almost every truck out of the muddy fields. Harvest ended on November 4th.
Alberta’s 2016 yields averaged a record 28.68 metric tonnes (31.56 short tons) per acre. We also saw a high quality crop with 19.31% (17.79% extractable) sugar being produced. – Rebecca Tokariuk
Sidney Sugars Inc.
The Sidney Sugars Inc. Ag Staff started contracting in April of 2016 and planting started soon after. It was a dry spring and thoughts of irrigating up were happening. However, we received a 2.5 to 3 inch rain event that many thought was a million dollar rain, but it came down hard and formed a crust that many growers had to break so seedlings could emerge. Crop stand was light in most of the fields. Growers did a great job of herbicide control and irrigation. We did notice a bit more cercospora pressure in August and September.
The last weekend in August brought news of the main irrigation canal washing out. This caught growers when many were just starting their last irrigation. The irrigation district worked 24/7 and had the canal up and running in less than 10 days. So many growers were able to apply last irrigation. Then the rains started the last 10 days of September. This did delay harvest as the entire contract area received 1.5 to 3 inches of rain. Growers started harvest in the mud and finished up in the mud. The 2016 sugarbeet final numbers are 33.4 ton per acre, 17.69% sugar. The tons per acres are a new record for this area. Beets are storing well as of this writing and we expect slicing to finish in early March. – Duane Peters
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
The 2016 crop year at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) started off as well as could be hoped for. With the crop planted by mid-April and no significant frost events that required replanting, things were looking as good as the record year in 2015. Nearly ideal growing conditions continued through May, June and July. With the excellent growing conditions the crop was well ahead of normal and many shareholders were starting to spray for Cercospora Leaf Spot (CLS) by the end of June.
As the crop continued to grow it became clear that an early start to prepile harvest was going to be required. Accordingly, we began prepile harvest on August 9. Unfortunately the next day, August 10th, the growing area received between four and ten inches of rainfall. This resulted in prepile harvest being delayed for several days to allow fields to dry out. The following several weeks saw rainfall every few days and both the shareholders and Ag Staff had to deal with mud for the remainder of harvest.
Although harvesting in wet conditions is very challenging, an even greater challenge was the impact the constant wetness had on disease development. The warm and wet conditions throughout August and September resulted in ideal conditions for CLS. The rapid growth of the disease coupled with the difficulty in having timely fungicide applications due to persistent rainfall resulted in significant level of CLS throughout the growing area. The control of this disease was made only more difficult by the development of widespread resistance to the strobilurin chemistry. This chemistry had been an important management tool for the control of this disease. The CLS ended up having a very significant impact on the final yield and sugar content of the crop.
Fortunately the rains became less frequent once we reach October 2nd and the beginning of main harvest. Although still muddy, the main harvest went well with relatively few weather related interruptions. Some fields remained very wet which delayed the finishing of harvest with the last beets being delivered November 11.
The 2016 crop turned out to be the tale of two crop years as the first half of the year was nearly ideal and the second half of the year being one of the most difficult in recent memory. In the end a respectable final yield of 27.78 tons per acre was harvested. Unfortunately, the sugar content was impacted more dramatically by the persistent rains and CLS with the final result being a disappointing 14.74% sugar. This was certainly a disappointing result given the very favorable beginning to the year. – Todd Geselius
Spreckels Sugar Company
Planting began the first week in September with above normal temperatures. Most of the planters were held back to see if Hurricane Linda moved rains into the area. By the middle of September all growers were in the field planting. We had a few more fields sprinkle irrigation for emergence this year because of the high temperatures. Stands were reduced over the entire area because of the high temperatures.
The temperatures in October did not begin to cool off until the third week. Planting was completed the first week in November. Later planted beets were emerging to better stands as the temperatures cooled. Replanting was completed during the third week of November. Root samples taken the first week of December showed above average on quality, but stand counts and yield were down slightly. Weather conditions returned to normal by the first of the year. The second round of root samples taken the first week in January improved to average yields and above average quality. The crop responded to the cooler weather and had a good healthy look to it.
Root samples taken in February showed above average yield and quality began lagging behind the five year average due to weaker stands than normal. Fields flagged for the beginning of harvest started showing a border effect. March brought a little warmer than normal temperatures. Root samples in March again showed above average yield and lower quality. Harvest began on April 1st and the factory was running very good so we had high truck quotas. Yields were a little above average and growers were ready to dig beets.
We did receive some rain in the Valley that slowed slice down for a couple of days then we were right back up to full slice. We did have some problems with the reduced stands in the fields allowing more clods to come in with the beets and the size of some of the beets later in harvest made it difficult to get them through the beet pump at times. The last truck of sugarbeets came in on August 6th and harvest was completed. We had good factory operations and the growers did a good job of delivering a clean crop. The final numbers for the Brawley Factory were 44.75 TPA, sugar content of 16.39% and purity of 87.82%. 24,634 acres of beets were harvested yielding a total of 1,102,333 net tons of sugarbeets. It was a good crop overall that processed very well despite a little lower quality than normal. Spreckels Sugar thanks the growers for the help in delivering the crop. We are all looking forward to the next harvest. – Ron Tharp
Western Sugar Cooperative
The 2016 growing season started off with above normal precipitation in all Western Sugar regions. In late June the precipitation stopped and the region had a full supply of irrigation water that allowed the crop to fully develop. The cooperative had minimal replant and abandoned acres. Sugarbeet diseases and pests were very minimal this year across the cooperative.
Above normal temperatures in October caused the sugarbeet harvest to be delayed for an extend period of time. There were several days that no harvest was allowed because of the warm soil temperatures that would not allow for a long term storable sugarbeet in the pile. Ambient and soil temperatures finally cooled and full harvest was allowed to resume at the end of October. Early harvest started on September 2nd and was completed on November 28th in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
Yields in the Montana region averaged 36.6 tons per acre, with a 17.38% sugar. Lovell averaged 30.1 tons per acre with a 17.25% sugar. Nebraska averaged 29.8 tons with an 18.50% sugar and Colorado 33.7 tons with a 17.92% sugar. Sugarbeet processing is scheduled to be completed in late February/early March. — Jerry Darnell
Wyoming Sugar Company
2016 was a wonderful year for the Wyoming Sugar Company and our growers. The crop looked tremendous at every stage from planting to harvest.
In early April, the temperature had warmed up and the weather was very pleasant. Most of our beets were planted and had emerged by the middle of April. Towards the latter part of April we started to get some rains that were frequent through the month of May and into June. Most of our fields had the rows closed by early June. The temperatures remained quite moderate until late June when they started the push close to the 100-degree mark. Throughout July and August weekly showers were common which is not usual for our growing area. By mid-August and early September the temperature had started to cool off and harvest was in the air.
Harvest was slated to begin on September 23rd but it started to rain on the 22nd and it kept up for four days. Some of our growing area received over three inches of rain during this period. Harvest finally got underway slowly on the 27th but on the 3rd of October we got more rain. Some of our growing areas received another three inches. We received the equivalent of almost all our average yearly precipitation in a 10-day period.
Within a few days, harvest resumed and we enjoyed some of the best sugarbeet harvesting weather that we have had in some time.
Our crop finished up at 34.9 tons per acre and a sugar content of 17.92%.
20% of our crop this year is under forced-air ventilation and we project the campaign lasting until mid-February. – Myron Casdorph
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower