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Sugar beet harvest under way

Bigger yields, better stand counts, higher prices expected


Capital Press

Beet diggers began rolling last week in southern Idaho.

While it's too early to tell how harvest will compare with Amalgamated Sugar Co.'s Sept. 1 estimates, healthy crop stands and good weather have the crop faring well, said Vic Jaro, the company's president and CEO.

Idaho's production is forecast to be 5.73 million tons, up 9 percent from a year ago, according to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. The expected yield of 32.2 tons per acre is up from 2010's 31 tons per acre. Harvested acreage is expected to total 178,000 acres, up 8,000 acres from 2010.

"Based on acreage increase and a slight increase in yield, I think that's right," Jaro said.

Planted acreage in Idaho, Oregon and Washington is up nearly 6,000 acres, from 182,264 acres last year to 188,181 acres. Amalgamated allowed growers to overplant by 5 percent in the face of uncertainty over whether they'd be able to plant Roundup Ready beets this year, he said. That resulted in a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in acreage.

Due to a wet, cool spring, growers didn't get the crop in until mid-June, but favorable weather this summer and now in September has the crop in better condition than last year, he said.

Extreme spring temperatures and wind damage last year set up probably the worst year for replants Amalgamated has ever seen, he said. With average replants at 5 percent to 10 percent, last year's 29 percent replants was off the charts.

This year saw only 7 percent replants, 13,285 acres, compared with 52,984 acres last year, he said.

Beets got in the ground later this year but ended up with a little bit earlier plant establishment. That led to better plant counts, he said. The average count per 100 feet is 120 plants. This year, counts are 140 or better.

"Lower replants and better stand count should see an upside on yield over last year," he said.

And Mother Nature has been kind to the crop this summer, with only a couple of days of triple-digit temperatures.

"Beets don't tolerate heat real well, it puts them in stress," he said.

Good weather and much better stand count tend to indicate good sugar, and Amalgamated is expecting the average sugar content at 17 percent or even better, he said.

"We're hopeful for a good harvest and a safe harvest," he said.

The Twin Falls and Mini-Cassia sugar factories started up on Sept. 15, and the Nampa plant is scheduled to begin processing Oct. 12, he said.

U.S. sugar beet production is forecast at 29.2 million tons, 9 percent below 2010, according to USDA-NASS. The biggest decrease is expected in Minnesota, with 2.3 million tons less production, and North Dakota, down 0.6 million tons. Growers expect to harvest 1.21 million acres, up 51,900 acres from 2010. The yield is forecast at 24.2 tons per acre, down 3.4 tons from 2010.

Calls to growers and the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association were not returned.

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