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Sugar beet harvest on track to wrap up early

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The sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley is on track to wrap up early, according to early projections.

Growers have harvested about 90 percent of the beets as of Thursday, which is ahead of most years, said Brian Ingulsrud, vice president of agriculture at American Crystal Sugar Co. Typically, the harvest takes about three weeks, but the annual undertaking will close out its second week Saturday.

It's hard to say exactly when the harvest will be completely wrapped, Ingulsrud said, adding there may be some "stragglers."

The harvest began in earnest Sept. 30, a day ahead of the typical Oct. 1 start date. That may have gave farmers a slight boost, Ingulsrud said, but it also helped that sugar factories took in more beets than normal during pre-pile.

"We took about 1.8 million tons during pre-pile," he said.

There were fewer heat shutdowns than normal, which kept momentum going during the harvest, Ingulsrud said. Temperatures have been slightly above normal, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

But the weather has, for the most part, cooperated with the harvest.

Crops are expected to produce higher sugar counts than average, with yields coming in at 30 tons per acre, Ingulsrud said. That's the second highest yield on record.

North Dakota's production is forecast at 6.37 million tons, or up about 2 percent from last year's crop, according to the latest crop production report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On the Minnesota side, producers should bring in 12.2 million tons, down 3 percent from last year, according to the USDA.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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