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Rains that made 2- to 4-inch deposits on sugar beet fields near Maynard, Minn., delayed the pre-pile harvest from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7. Photo taken Sept. 5, 2018, near Maynard, Minn. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)
MAYNARD, Minn.—The 2018 pre-pile sugar beet harvest was supposed to start Sept. 4 for Troy Groothuis and other growers at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative, based at Renville, Minn.
After 2- to 4-inch rains the week after Labor Day, the co-op set the new pre-pile harvest to start Sept. 7. The factory started slicing beets on Sept. 10. Full-scale harvest starts Oct. 1.
The Groothuis (pronounced GROW-tus) family raises 1,000 acres of corn and 500 acres each of soybeans and sugar beets, and do some custom harvesting work.
"The whole year has been wet," Groothuis says. "It's been such big rains. These have been 3, 4-, 5-, 6-, 8- and 10-inch rains. They just haven't shut off."
Groothuis hopes for heat and wind and is optimistic about being able to get into the fields for harvest. Some farmers in his area have been picking corn for silage and getting through the fields. Some farmers who grew sweet corn for the canning market made some ruts.
Groothuis acquired a new side-dump semi-trailer that is designed for sugar beets and allows harvest with fewer workers. The farm also has end-dump trucks that can do double-duty with corn harvest.
Corn looks inconsistent, Groothius says, hoping for 150 bushels an acre, which would compare to a 200-plus average. Soybean yields could be over 60 bushels per acre, Groothius says, following on 50s. "In this area, the beans look the best."
"You can't fight Mother Nature," Groothuis says. "She won out this year."
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar officials peg the beet crop at 20 to 25 tons per acre, with the sugar content in the "mid 13" percent range, which is not good.
"The rain always seems to zap the sugar," Groothuis says. He says he doesn't think his own neighborhood has even average beets for the cooperative. In the past few years, he's been raising 25- to 30-tons per acre.
Groothuis' beets have been beset by diseases. He plants disease-resistant beets, sprays them faithfully, but when the water doesn't turn off, there is nothing the farmer can do. Root rots and cercospora leaf spot have persisted, despite faithful spraying.
The vagaries of farming aren't new to Groothuis, and he seems to take it in stride..
He took two years of vocational training in Willmar, Minn., and then worked 13 years for a farmer. In 1989, he and his wife, Danelle, started farming with his father-in-law, Robert Olson, and Robert's brother, Maurice Olson, who farmed together at the time. They were some of the early producers in the beet co-op.
The Groothuis family still farms under the R&M Farms banner. Their son, Nick, recently graduated from South Dakota State University and works at a local implement dealer and also helps out during the busy times.
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September 17, 2018 at 09:03AM