mohamed kahn

Extension sugarbeet specialist Mohamed Kahn

A large variation in sugarbeet yields was seen across the region in 2018, according to Mohamed Kahn, Extension sugarbeet specialist for North Dakota and Minnesota. The differences in crop yields was mainly influenced by rainfall amounts received during the growing season.

Following is a region by region summary of the 2018 sugarbeet growing season”

In the American Crystal co-op area, the northern end of the Red River Valley was very dry, while other areas had adequate amounts of rainfall, Kahn noted.

“In the area where it was dry, they had a sugarbeet crop that was very high in sugar concentration but relatively low in terms of tonnage,” he said. “The beets averaged over 19 percent sugar and close to 19 tons of sugarbeets per acre. However, in the central and southern parts of the Red River Valley, where they had more normal rainfall, they had higher tonnage but a little less sugar percentage.”

Kahn estimates over the entire Crystal Sugar region, they had the second or third largest crop they have ever had, on average, with over 18 percent sugar.

Conditions for beet producers in southern Minnesota were very wet from May to the end of the season and really had a negative effect on the sugarbeet crop, Kahn said. It resulted in severe Cercospora leaf spot and also some root diseases. The Cercospora leafspot was the main problem because the fields were wet and the conditions were favorable for disease infection and development and those wet fields prevented the producers from keeping a 12- to 14-day spraying interval from July to the end of September. This resulted in yields of only 19 tons per acre and a very poor sugar content of only around 14 to 15 percent.

Producers in southern Minnesota are experiencing a double whammy with a poor crop in the field – and a small crop results in higher processing costs at the sugarbeet plant, which lowers the payment level to growers as well, he noted.

The Minn-Dak area had a similar situation as Minnesota, but it was not as severe. At Minn-Dak they had less frequency of rainfall which allowed those growers to control the disease until September and as a result the crop wasn’t damaged that much.

Beet producers in the northwest corner of North Dakota and northeast Montana, had a little lighter crop than normal, Kahn reported due to either dry weather or hail. Overall, it was a fairly good crop.

Because of the cold weather conditions, the beets are storing well in all of the areas, with no major processing problems reported.

With lower sugar prices, the growers are somewhat disheartened, Kahn noted, but they are in committed to the industry on a long-term basis, since the processing facilities and the shares of beet acreage are actually owned by the growers.

“They just have to make sure that they put away enough money when the sugar prices are good to last into the tough times,” he said. “Right now, growers are waiting for another season to start, and especially in the southern Minnesota areas, they can forget what happened in the past year. They have to be optimistic and hope they have a better crop this year.”

In focusing on the Cercospora problem in the southern areas, Kahn said growers should start to consider using aerial application of fungicides as a control effort if field conditions are too wet for ground application.

Finally, Kahn encourages everyone associated with the sugarbeet industry to attend the International Sugarbeet Institute on March 20-21 at the FargoDome in Fargo. A free breakfast will be served each morning and a free hotdog lunch at noon. There is no charge for  parking and admission to the show is free.

On the opening day nine individuals in the sugarbeet industry will be honored prior to the keynote speakers presentation. The keynote speaker for this year is Dan Colacicco, who will speak both days at 11 a.m.