Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Beet harvest nears end

American Crystal's sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley is nearly complete, and the yields look to be matching the record 25.5 tons per acre set two years ago, according to company officials.

American Crystal's sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley is nearly complete, and the yields look to be matching the record 25.5 tons per acre set two years ago, according to company officials.

But the going has been slow this week, as wet fields have hindered most harvest activity.

"We are 94 percent complete in the valley," Dan Bernhardson, director of agriculture for American Crystal, said Friday. Growers planted 425,000 acres last spring, and had about 420,000 acres to lift by harvest time. That's the lowest in more than a decade, as in recent years the co-op has averaged 500,000 acres.

But the average yield this year appears to be at or near a record, 25.5 tons an acre, just above the previous record of 25.4 tons set two years ago, Bernhardson said.

Company officials alerted the 875 growers before harvest to be ready to leave up to 10 percent of their acres to be dug under, to keep from over-supplying the five processing factories. That number of reserve acres was reduced to 7 percent and by Friday, to 2 percent. This weekend, the final decision on whether any beets will be left unharvested will be made, Bernhardson said.


Digging on Friday was mostly in the northern end of the valley, as the Fargo-Moorhead area was under rain much of the day.

Thursday was productive, with 50,000 tons taken in, he said. The co-op aims to harvest nearly 11 million tons.

The corn and sunflower crops remain largely untouched, compared with more typical years when a third to a half of those crops would already have been gleaned.

"We simply need more, drier days," said Willie Huot, agricultural extension agent for Grand Forks County.

October rains in the Valley will set records in some spots. American Crystal's five factory districts report precipitation, and the Crookston district says it has received 7 inches of rain this month. The National Weather Service said a week ago that Crookston was nearly 4 inches above normal rainfall since April 1, and some rain fell this week. And nearly all that surplus has come in the past month or so; until well into September, the season had been several inches below normal rainfall.

It means that only 3 percent of the corn was harvested in North Dakota by Oct. 20, the latest official data available; little has been combined since. Normally, more than a third of the crop is harvested by Oct. 20, and nearly half would be gone by today.

In Minnesota, 19 percent of the corn was combined by Oct. 20, compared to 51 percent last year on the same date and 43 percent on average, the past five years.

Soybeans largely are harvested; 70 percent in North Dakota and 83 percent in Minnesota, pretty close to average, as of Oct. 20.


Only 10 percent of sunflowers were threshed by Oct. 20 in North Dakota, compared to 34 percent on average the previous five years; in Minnesota, a third of the crop is gone, close to the average of 39 percent.

On the positive side, the late growing season has helped all the crops reach full maturity despite a season that was behind all summer. The corn and sunflower crops have reached maturity, thanks to having about three weeks extra before a killing frost, Huot said.

Frost is here

This weekend promises perhaps the first widespread hard frost across the region and that will help, Huot said.

"A hard freeze, typically, enhances crop dry-down and often what will occur we may get a couple of days of drier weather after that."

Still, the corn crop is going to get harvested much wetter than normal, he said. Corn needs to be about 15 percent moisture to store safely, and much of the crop in the field now is nearer to 30 percent, he said.

It will mean extra costs to farmers for drying down the corn, which will hurt, since corn prices have lost about half their value in recent months, from more than $7 to about $3.30 at grain elevators in the region.

Meanwhile, large parts of Minnesota outside the Red River Valley were drier this week and saw good harvest progress, unlike eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.


One of the wettest regions is eastern and also northern Walsh County, into parts of Pembina and Cavalier counties, said Brad Brummond, ag extension agent in Walsh County.

While only about 10 percent of the dry edible beans statewide are left in the field, there still is 30 to 40 percent of the edible beans in his county, lying cut in windrows or still standing in the sodden fields, Brummond said Friday. The quality of those beans is falling, and combines are getting stuck trying to pick them up, he said.

A good number of soybean acres remain standing but are weathering the wet weather better than pintos and navies, he said.

Corn harvest has started, but the high moisture, up to 30 percent, has helped lead to a drier fire at an elevator in Hoople, N.D., the past week, he said.

On Friday, some of American Crystal's 33 outlying receiving stations were closed due to wet conditions, while factory yards in East Grand Forks, Crookston, Hillsboro, N.D., and Drayton, N.D., were open for farmer hauling.

While the full harvest normally has strict schedule when each of the 875 growers can dig and haul their beets, now it's pretty much "open haul," as the last acres are swept up.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

What To Read Next
Get Local