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Sugar beet harvest kicks off in Red River Valley

A sugar beet grows out of the dark soil into the summer sun near Mallory, Minn., late Wednesday morning. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
A sugar beet is lit by the late morning sun near Mallory on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Rows of sugar beets bask in the summer sunshine near Mallory, Minn., on Wednesday morning. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

While it may be early in the harvest season, the sugar beet harvest is going well so far, one official said.

Brian Ingulsrud, American Crystal Sugar's vice president for agriculture, said the sugar beet harvest has been "good," but noted that most farmers have only been harvesting for about a week.

The sugar beet harvest typically starts around mid-August for "pre-pile." They then move on to "stockpile" at the beginning of October.

The summer has been hot and dry for the most part, which can make harvesting sugar beets a bit easier, Ingulsrud said.

"It's always difficult to harvest beets when it's too muddy because you have to pull them out of the ground," he said. "On the other hand, when it's dry, sometimes it's difficult for the harvesters to even penetrate the ground because it gets dried so hard. So, it does bring some complications when it gets overly dry."

The dry conditions not only impact harvesting the crop, but also impact the sugar beet itself.

Ingulsrud said the hot, dry conditions tend to raise the sugar content in the beet, which makes it more efficient to process in the factories and more profitable. Ingulsrud said they are seeing some differences between beets harvested from the northern part of the Red River Valley, near Canada, where conditions are drier, and the southern part.

"When we have a higher sugar content as a percent of weight, it just makes for a nicer combination of lower cost relative to the amount of sugar you're extracting," he said. "The positive thing about it being drier is you get higher sugar content, but the negative part is you get less tons."

Ingulsrud said American Crystal Sugar takes safety very seriously and added they appreciate the public's consideration of a very busy time on the roads during the harvest.

"Our goal is to complete a safe harvest with no accidents, and I really appreciate everyone's help in trying to achieve that goal," he said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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