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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kyle Vuille photo

Beet harvest ends on positive note

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The annual area sugarbeet harvest has come to a close, and despite less-than-friendly weather conditions throughout most of the growing season, this year’s crop has turned out to be a good one.

Dawson County’s beet growers wrapped up their harvest season on Sunday, and according to Sidney Sugars agricultural manager Dwayne Peters, the 2,800 acres of sugarbeets the company has contracted with Dawson County growers did very well indeed, all things considered.

“It was a very good year,” Peters said.

According to Peters, the Dawson County beet crop this year was a little bit better compared to the beets coming from the rest of Sidney Sugars’ growers. The company has a total of 33,400 acres of beets under production throughout the Yellowstone River valley in northeast Montana and northwest North Dakota. Peters noted that Dawson County’s growers had an average yield this year of 31.1 tons to the acre and the beets are averaging a sugar content of 18.31 percent.

“Right now, we’re averaging as a district as a whole 18 (percent sugar content), so they were three tenths over that, so they’re a little bit above average and we’re happy with that,” Peters said.

Blaine Rau, a contracted beet grower within the Buffalo Rapids Irrigation District, agreed that he and other area beet growers were able to pull out a decent beet crop this year, despite little in the way of help from Mother Nature.

“Considering the dry spring, the heat and the wind we had, it turned out alright,” Rau said.

The toughest part of the season for beet growers was early spring, Rau said, noting that the lack of rain in spring meant extra work, cost and headache for farmers to get their beets sprouted and growing.

“Though we’re irrigated, we kind of depend on the rain early on,” Rau said. “We didn’t have that in our area, so we had to irrigate all that up.”

Rau further noted that even after the beets had sprouted and irrigators were in full pumping mode to water the thirsty plants, the dry, hot and windy conditions which dominated all growing season “doesn’t do any good for the crops either.”

Peters also acknowledged that the drought conditions across the region this year did have some impact on beet growers, albeit not enough to really affect the overall quality of the beet crop.

“The heat did hit us a little hard. We did have some lower yields on some of the sand and gravel ridges,” Peters said. “But overall, we were happy with the crop.”

Sidney Sugars started the beet harvest two weeks early this year in mid-September, though it went in stops and starts as Peters noted they periodically had to shut down due to either rain, frost or heat.

Despite the little hitches in the harvest caused by the weather, however, Peters said starting early has ultimately worked out like a charm. He said Sidney Sugars will be picking up the beets at Dawson County’s Pleasantview receiving station on Nov. 10, far earlier than they normally would.

“Usually we don’t hit Pleasantview until about December, so we’re going almost 30 days earlier than we normally would, so that early harvest has paid big dividends for us,” Peters said.

All in all, despite the harsh weather this growing season, local beet growers appear to have had another banner year — and as Rau noted, definitely better than last year’s crop, which was hit hard by hail — and there are 81,000 tons of beets sitting at the Pleasantview station to prove it.

“The way it started out, it had a decent ending to it, so it all worked out,” Rau said. 

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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