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Hazelton, Idaho, farmer Randy Grant on Oct. 21 had about two-thirds of his beet crop out of the ground, and counting.
“We expect to conclude around Oct. 25 barring any major weather issues,” said Grant, the Idaho Sugar Beet Growers Association board president.
Beet growers in southern Idaho said the crop looks good but probably won’t match that of 2018, a banner year. The ’19 season was wetter, slower-starting and cooler. A hard freeze occurred Oct. 9-10.
“On our farm, yield is going to be average this year, probably slightly less than last year,” Grant said. He expects his crop’s sugar content to be about average. Yield and sugar content last year were above the long-term averages.
A cool spring probably slowed growth, he said, though “sugar beets don’t like it extremely hot. We didn’t have any really hot weather, so we probably fared pretty well through summer.
“It’s a pretty typical year,” Grant said.
American Falls farmer LaMar Isaak on Oct. 22 said the beet harvest at his American Falls-area farm was around 60% completed, close to average for the time of year.
“We are pushing really hard, trying to do the best we can,” he said.
“It’s a good crop,” Isaak said. “Maybe not the best, but it looks good and the quality seems good.”
Wet, cold conditions last spring delayed planting on the farm by 10 to 14 days. The cooler summer curtailed peak-season heat units, which can reduce beet size.
“We dodged a bullet on that cold” Oct. 9-10, he said. “It would have been nice if it never happened, but I think the crop is OK. It’s not going to grow anymore, that’s for sure. It’s time to get them out of the ground.”
Isaak said he expects a crop that is good, but not to the level of 2018. “Last year was a great crop.”
Harvest can start later in the lower-elevation western Treasure Valley, near the Oregon border, because hard freezes typically don’t come as early and farmers first harvest other crops such as onions and silage corn.
Galen Lee, who farms near New Plymouth, on Oct. 21 said his beet harvest was about one-third completed — about average, as are yields.
Later planting and wet conditions meant sugar beets “didn’t take off as fast,” he said. “But once they warmed up, they kind of made up for lost time.”
Lee said beet growth was helped by a summer that did not get extremely hot and lacked the wildfire smoke seen some years, though the growing season’s additional moisture produced a bit more fungal pressure in parts of the Treasure Valley.
Grower-owned cooperative Amalgamated Sugar through Oct. 21 was about 62% through harvest, a day to a day and a half ahead of 2018 and on track with the long-term average, said Vice President of Agriculture Pat Laubacher.
“This is a little surprising given that many growers were delayed starting their sugar beet harvest because they were still harvesting onions, potatoes and other temperature-sensitive crops,” he said. “Growers have persevered under difficult conditions this October.”
Amalgamated expects yields to be around the four-year average — 39.8 tons per acre, which trails 2018 by 1.8%, Laubacher said. Yields since 2009 have been steadily increasing.
Sugar content “continues to develop,” he said, “and we expect to be near 17.75% when harvest is completed in early November.” That would be the third-highest in company history, behind the record 2018 crop and 2016.
May’s cold, wet conditions reduced growing-degree days, and much of the crop in south-central and southeastern Idaho is feeling that impact, Laubacher said. But the cooler summer helped crop development in the western region that includes southwest Idaho and part of Oregon.
The 2019 crop is just over 177,000 acres, a typical size, he said.
Amalgamated processing started Sept. 5 at Twin Falls and Paul, and Sept. 26 in Nampa. Laubacher on Oct. 22 said the company had sliced about 20% of the total crop, and expected the slice (processing) campaign to conclude in mid-February in Nampa and around April 1 at Twin Falls and Paul.
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October 31, 2019 at 10:39AM