Statewide sugar beet yields projected to be down about 4%
The Minnesota sugar beet crop should be smaller this year, thanks to the long winter and rainy start to the summer.
Yield forecasts are down more than a ton per acre, about a 4 percent decline, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as farmers gear up for the fall harvest.
"We are looking at a smaller crop than average," said Kyle Petersen, a farmer near Murdock and chairman of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative. "It is a definite issue, there’s no question."
The cooperative’s pre-harvest, when farmers start pulling small numbers of sugar beets out of the ground, will start in early September. Full harvest starts in early October, and the cooperatives are already looking for seasonal labor to help with the harvest.
The Southern Minnesota Sugar Beet Cooperative, based in Renville County in south-central Minnesota, west of the Twin Cities, is now accepting online applications. Beginners can earn $12.94 to $13.94 per hour, and should be prepared to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week in October. Several seasonal jobs at several locations are listed on the cooperative’s website.
According to the USDA’s crop progress report, yields for sugar beets are 29.3 tons per acre, compared to 30.6 tons per acre last year. When beets are planted later in the growing season, their tap root has less time to develop, which prevents it from gathering nutrients and hurts overall yields.
"It’s just a case where we’ve had excessive moisture," Petersen said.
Northwest Minnesota, where the American Crystal Sugar Company is dominant, has been drier, and yields there are "at or above our five-year average," said Tyler Grove, general agronomist for American Crystal.
American Crystal is now also taking applications for seasonal labor. Pre-harvest started a week ago, to prepare for the larger crop.
If anything, beet farmers in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota would like to see more rain.
"This’ll be our third year of kind of dry conditions up here," Grove said.