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Regional beet harvest wraps up

Modified: Wednesday, Nov 14th, 2012

TORRINGTON – All that remains now is three to four months of sugar processing, as Western Sugar Cooperative Agricultural Manager Jerry Darnell said the harvest for southeast Wyoming and the Nebraska Panhandle is now complete. The harvest’s final numbers weigh in at 28.9 tons per acre with 17.96 percent sugar content and 1.3 percent sugar loss to molasses.

Earlier this year, Darnell projected the area crop would yield 31 tons of beets per acre with 19 percent sugar content. Both Darnell’s projections and the final numbers came in much higher than last year’s end result, which measured a closer-to-average number of 24.7 tons per acre with 17 percent sugar content.

The record-setting crop is the result of hot, dry conditions throughout the growing season. Though weather in the spring and summer wasn’t always conducive to other crops throughout the area, producers from several areas in Wyoming and Nebraska reported a more abundant, mature crop of sugar beets

The weather continues to work in favor of sugar growers, Darnell said.

“We were worried when it was staying so warm, but we’re happy to see a change of weather,” he said.

Darnell said ideally, sugar beets should be stored in conditions that allow the beets’ internal temperature to be between 32 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit; the cooler temperatures allow for better long-term storage. Before the recent, colder conditions came to the region, the Western Sugar processing plants in Scottsbluff, Neb. and Torrington had to shut down at least three times due to less-than-ideal storage conditions.

Taking a look at the national picture, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports 2012’s crop is the highest in arces harvested, in tons of beets harvested and in most beets produced per acre.

There were 11,000 more acres of beets planted across the country this year compared to last, and the yield is considerably higher in 2012. The NASS reports that of the 1.215 million acres harvested, this year’s sugar beet crop weighs in at nearly 35 million tons of sugar beets, measuring 28.8 tons per acre. In 2011, 28.8 million tons of sugar beets were harvested at 23.8 tons per acre.

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