WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published October 14, 2009, 10:18 PM

Frost Halts Beet Harvest

Snow and frost have shut down the beet harvest in the valley. Farmers are waiting for word from American Crystal before they can start up again.

By: Joel Porter, WDAZ

Farmers around Grand Forks have passed the half way point in the beet harvest.

Now they're waiting to get back into the fields.

But with more overnight snow, it could be days before they can continue harvesting.

Farmers around Grand Forks have about 25 to 30 percent of their beet crop left to be taken off.

They say with good weather it might only take a few days to finish up, but after today's snow and rain, it will make the rest of the harvest a slow process.

Bad weather turned to worse this afternoon, as thick snow fell near Grand Forks. Tractors and beet equipment sits unmanned as farmers wait to pick up where they left off just a few days ago.

Jeff Schweitzer/ American Crystal: From snow to frost to heat to rain, so they're no stranger to these types of situations but none the less frustrating for them, obviously when you've got the crop, the equipment and the manpower ready to bring this crop out, that's exactly what you want to do.

Farmers were shut down all day with frost crystals forming on the sugar beet crop. American Crystal is waiting for the frost to leave the crop before giving farmers the OK.

Jeff Schweitzer/ American Crystal: Those cells break down and can potentially affect other good quality beets, it's kind of the old one bad apple could spoil the whole pile concept.

Beau Bateman/ Beet Farmer: Every additional precipitation event that we get makes it a little more challenging to separate the mud from the sugar beets as well as pulling heavy trucks through the field and just the whole safety issue that goes along with that loss of traction.

Most farmers near Grand Forks, including Beau Bateman have taken off more than 60 percent of their crop. Bateman says even once they're ready to go, the rain and snow will make it a slower process.

Beau Bateman/ Beet Farmer: You take men off a truck rotation, put them into a pulling tractor so now your manpower is reduced as well so now you're going to see a slowing of the effort.

Despite the late start to planting and relatively mild temps, Bateman says the beets have responded fairly well. And unlike previous years, they won't be leaving any beets in the ground.

Beau Bateman/ Beet Farmer: The sugars have responded pretty well to that limited growing degree day input, the tonage, not so bad.

American Crystal allowed farmers to plant 442 thousand acres this season, an increase of 20 thousand acres from last year.

The beets so far are averaging between 23 and 24 tons per acre, a few tons less than last year as well.