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Sugar beet pre-pile harvest begins

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 09/20/2012 9:41 AM

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RENVILLE, Minn. — The sugar beet harvest is under way.

Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative at Renville, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative based in Wahpeton, N.D., and American Crystal Sugar in Moorhead all started the "pre-pile" harvest in mid-August.

Pre-pile, a time when the cooperatives take a limited amount of beets as the factories begin production, will continue through September until full harvest begins in early October.

Minn-Dak communications specialist Chris DeVries said that the cooperative's Peet, Lyngaas, Hawes and Lehman stations have been or will be receiving beets during this part of pre-pile.

All three cooperatives report good growing conditions for the crop, which should result in equally good yields.

SMBSC and Minn-Dak estimate yields at about 27 tons-per-acre. American Crystal's estimates mature crop harvest will yield 25-tons-per-acre.

It could be among the biggest crops ever for SMBSC, says Todd Geselius, SMBSC vice president.

Production could change if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

"There is still a lot of growing season to go," Geselius said.

Several factors are used to determine when pre-pile should start, said Geselius. The size of the crop is one of them.

Growing conditions favored beets, said Jeff Schweitzer, marketing director for American Crystal. More than 9 percent of thet crop was planted before May 1. In 2011, the last acres were in the ground on June 16.

An area from Fargo to Hillsboro, N.D., experienced drier conditions, but overall, the crop continues to thrive.

"We also had good timely rains in most of the growing region and good insect control," he said. "So far, knock on wood, its looking like a good crop."

American Crystal growers planted 435,000 acres. It takes a large geographical area to establish those acres, Schweitzer said.

"Every crop year is different," Schweitzer said. "This year, it's been on the plus side."

Typically, sugar beet harvest can last seven weeks from the controlled pre-pile to the full harvest in October.

"It's always a guessing game because of how the weather impacts the harvest," Geselius said. "How it starts and how it ends up can be something different."