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Record sugar beet harvest

Sugar beets piled at the West Powell receiving station take on a rosy hue as the sun rises Monday morning. A warm fall combined with late moisture produced a record crop for the Western Sugar Cooperative’s Lovell factory district. Sugar beets piled at the West Powell receiving station take on a rosy hue as the sun rises Monday morning. A warm fall combined with late moisture produced a record crop for the Western Sugar Cooperative’s Lovell factory district. Tribune photo by Kevin Kinzley

Late moisture boosts beets to average 28.8 tons per acre

The inch of rain that fell in early October frustrated sugar beet growers who were trying to haul beets from their fields.

But the storm that stopped the harvest paid off in the end, when the Lovell factory district recorded a record sugar beet harvest. Only 100 acres, all in Big Horn County, remained to be harvested this week, Western Sugar Cooperative officials said Monday.

“It’s a record crop,” said Mark Bjornestad, senior agriculturalist for Western Sugar. “You should be able to tell by how big the beet piles are.”

Beets rolled in at an average 28.8 tons per acre.

In September, before the harvest started, Bjornestad predicted yields of 24.5 tons per acre. That was based on scouting that began in the fields last spring, when cold, wet weather set the beets back. Bjornestad said then that the slow start had resulted in about 2 tons less per acre than last year’s 26-ton average.

But as September and October progressed, warmer weather and a few shots of moisture were ideal for late-season growth, said Randall Jobman of Western Sugar’s Billings factory.

“The crop responded very well” this fall and averages about 17.22 percent sugar, Jobman said.

Jobman said officials are happy to get the larger than predicted crop in without major problems. Prices remain high, and growers should do well.

“We’re 99 percent done, and we’re going to get them all,” Jobman said. He expects the Lovell factory slicing campaign to run through the end of February, typical for a crop of this size.

The Lovell and Emblem sites are the only Western Sugar receiving stations still open in the Lovell district, Bjornestad said. All the Park County beets are in.

“It’s a welcome event that the beet crop is as good as it is,” he said. “We just need to wrap up harvest. We should get them done this week.”

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