Crystal increases beet acres, finishes processing in three plants

American Crystal Sugar Co.’s is increasing its beet acres in 2011, due to wet, cold planting weather. The company on May 4 decided to increase its planted acres to 90 percent of preferred shares, up from the previous 85 percent planting level in 2010, says Dan Bernhardson, agricultural manager.

That means the company will plant 448,000 acres. “We will continue to monitor the progress,” Bernhardson says. “There’s rain in the forecast, b ut not big chances. We’ll evaluate the planting each week.”

So far, Crystal had 2,700 acres planted, considerably below normal, but not unprecedented.

In 2009, t4he company had only 1,500 planted as of May 3, which also was a slow start. That year, yields were 22.3 tons per acre. “The date of planting has a significant impact on the final yield,” he says.

Meanwhile, processing is continuing until mid- May at the company’s Drayton factory, but was winding down elsewhere. Hillsboro was the first to wrap up, April 28, followed by Moorhead, May 2; East Grand Forks, May 4. Crookston is set to end May 5. Bernhardson described it as a “timely end,” and that beets that had gone into storage piles had stored well. No beets were discarded this year. Final processing numbers won’t be available until after Drayton is finished.

Bernhardson expects that there may be more conventional beets planted by shareholders this year, despite the go-ahead for Roundup Ready beets. About 8 percent of the 2010 beets were conventional, mostly because the particular varieties had more resistance to a disease that was a problem in the East Grand Forks and Crooktson factory districts. He said a distributor is  for now storing some of the chemical that had been acquired in case the company decided to plant conventional beets only. “We don’t know what we’re going to have to store,” Bernhardson said, noting the chemical will be available to growers.”

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