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April is a busy time for sugar beet growers as they prepare to plant sugar beets or are currently in the field planting. The planting season normally runs April 15-25, but some farmers take to the field to plant before April 15th.
“Most sugar beet acres to be planted go in the ground April 15-25, seventy percent will be planted by the twenty-fifth, but there are always people who start April 1 or so,” Western Sugar Vice President of Agriculture, South Region, Jerry Darnell said. “The bulk of the beets go in these dates.”
Planting sugar beets early is risky because the seeds are planted relatively shallow in the ground, which makes them susceptible to cold temperature.
“They’re afraid to plant early, especially with the current weather forecast of low temperatures,” Darnell said. “If the weather forecast wasn’t so cold for this next week, there would probably be more growers planting now.”
Kendall Bush, area grower and president of Nebraska Beet Growers Association takes the risk of cold weather over crusted soil that often comes in late April or early May due to strong thunderstorms.
“One of the reasons I plant early is that I’m flood irrigated, so I have to rely on early to mid-April showers and snow to germinate the seeds,” Bush said. “Waiting to plant later when heavy thunderstorms come usually causes the soil to crust, which makes it hard, if not impossible, for the fragile beet seeds to push up through the ground. If the soil crusts hard, that’s it, no crop.”
Bush is one of many area growers planting contract sugar beet acres with Western Sugar, which has been grower owned since 2002.
“Here for Nebraska we’re planning on planting 43,000 acres. That’s from Wheatland, Wyoming, to Mirage Flats to around Gordon to Kimball to Big Springs,” Darnell said. “There are over 300 growers.”
Growers are busy turning and working the soil in preparation for planting.
“There has been a lot of tillage work done … Just go out and drive around the country and you’ll see a lot of tillage being done for either sugar beet or corn planting,” Darnell said.
With record low corn and wheat prices last year, sugar beet prices are looking to be strong this year.
“It looks like our acres are going to be there with Western Sugar this year, and the price of sugar has come up. It’s relatively strong right now,” Bush said. “With the price of corn and hay being low, beans may possibly hold their own, but it’s looking like sugar beets may be one of the best commodities to raise this year.”
Bush is confident that given certain things there will be a good sugar beet harvest in the fall.
“Our confidence is up this year with the factory and its expansion,” Bush said. “If we have a year with no severe storms, heavy snow or freeze on our beets, I think we should have a successful harvest.”
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April 15, 2020 at 04:03PM