« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Mikkel Pates, Forum Communications Co., Published October 16 2010

American Crystal approves 100 percent beet harvest

American Crystal Sugar Co. on Friday told growers they could harvest all their beets, said Dan Bernhardson, agricultural director for the Moorhead-based cooperative.

Before harvest, American Crystal had advised growers to be ready to set aside up to 18 percent of their planted acres because the five factories wouldn’t be able to process all the beets by the end of May.

Harvest is nearly complete.

This spring, the co-op allowed growers to plant only 85 percent of their preferred share acres, or 420,000 acres instead of the full 500,000 represented by the shares owned by about 2,200 people.

The co-op’s 850 growers have been producing bigger crops each year, due to better seed, farming practices and other technologies. The record yield of 25.5 tons was hit in two of the past four years; only 10 years ago, 20 tons an acre was considered a big yield.

This summer, co-op officials projected the average yield might average as high as 28 tons or more, co-op wide.

Because of federal sugar program rules and the capacity of American Crystal’s five processing factories, the past several years it’s been typical for the co-op to alert growers they might have to set aside some of their planted acres and disk them down. It’s happened only once that beets actually were left in the field, in 2006, according to David Berg, president of American Crystal.

This year, it appeared the set aside might be a record, as an early spring and good growing conditions combined to make a big crop.

Before the pre-pile phase of harvest began, American Crystal told growers to be ready to set aside up to 18 percent of their planted acres, or what would be equivalent to 30 percent of their share acres.

The co-op also started the pre-pile phase of the harvest earlier than ever – several days before the normal Sept. 1 start – because the crop was planted early and to try to give the factories more time to process the crop.

The co-op pegs the total harvestable acres this year at 415,000, figuring for drown-outs here and there.

On Friday, they announced that all those acres now will be harvested.

Bernhardson said the harvest is 84 percent complete. Warm weather led to a delay again Thursday until 8 p.m., to ensure the beets come in at storable temperatures.

It appears the harvest will wrap up this weekend.

The decision about how many acres to harvest is based on the processing schedule for a crop estimated to total 11.1 million to 11.2 million tons of beets.

An 11.2 million ton crop would mean an average yield of about 27 tons per acre, a 5.8 percent increase over the previous record yield.

At that level, the American Crystal factories in East Grand Forks, Crookston and Moorhead would be expected to run their processing campaign through May 15 and North Dakota factories in Drayton and Hillsboro would run through May 30.

Bernhardson says the reason for the difference is different wastewater holding capacities in the factories on either side of the border.

“If we end up shorter (on tons) we’ll move the North Dakota factories back,” Bernhardson says.

He says if the yield turns out to be 26.5 tons, all beet factories could be finished with beet slice on May 15.

The harvest season is setting new speed records.

The 1.08 million tons of beets lifted Wednesday was the highest single day for the co-op, besting a 1.06 million ton daily lift record set in 2006.