The final results for the region’s sugar beet crop have not yet been determined, but those who have seen the numbers are looking at this year’s yield with a smile.
“Farmers had a good year,” said Todd Geselius, Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative (SMBSC) vice-president of agriculture. “It may even be a record.”
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average sugar beet yield in 2016 across the state was 30 tons per acre. Estimates for 2017 show at least a half-ton increase over that.
In addition, the sugar beets that have been processed are showing a good sugar content. The average sugar content is in the 16.3 percent range, but this year the beets coming in are higher than that.
So, with a good crop in from the fields, it makes sense for those who are processing those beets into sugar to ensure they are still in good condition when they travel from the sites where they have been piled to the plant.
Unlike corn or beans that go to the elevator and are shielded from the elements, sugar beets are hauled from the field to a number of SMBSC sites throughout the region. Those sugar beets are then piled and await further transport.
In the past, those piles were at the mercy of the elements. When the pile got too hot, there was spoilage. If they froze and then thawed there was spoilage.
The key for those working with the harvested sugar beets was finding a way to maintain a consistent climate for them as they sat.
Prior to the 2016 harvest, officials at SMBSC began working on a plan that would address that issue, and as a result it installed a system that when in use keeps the pile of sugar beets frozen.
Along the sides of the pile located a few miles west of Redwood Falls one will notice this system. Geselius said the technology works to keep the sugar beets cold regardless of the external temperature through the use of fans and a series of tubes to push air throughout the pile maintaining that cold temperature.
“Cold beets store better,” said Geselius, adding while one can see the fan units the tubes are placed in culverts below the pile.
Geselius added the technology has been installed at other sites in the region as well, adding after one year of use they appear to be a good investment.
In previous years there was an assumed loss due to fluctuations in the temperature where the sugar beet piles were placed, but with this new technology those loss numbers are expected to drop dramatically.
“We think this is going to be a very useful piece of technology,” said Geselius.
The technology allows the cooperative to keep the beets in the piles for a longer period of time. Geselius said in the past the rule of thumb was that the beets in a pile could not be there beyond March 1. With this new technology they could remain piled up into May.
“After May it gets too warm,” said Geselius.
The technology has been placed permanently at the sites, because officials at SMBSC are confident they are going to make a positive impact on the final result – the amount of sugar being processed at the Renville County plant.
The SMBSC is 100 percent owned by shareholders, with approximately 500 shareholders /growers in involved. There are about 375 people employed full-time through the cooperative, with an added 475 seasonal employees brought on during the harvest season.
To learn more about SMBSC and the process of getting sugar from sugar beets, visit its Web site at www.smbsc.com.