Fighting to save beets

Under weather watch, quotas continue

Posted 10/22/19

Even the smell in the air tells the story of freeze-damaged beets.

“You only have to drive by a beet field and the smell will tell that the damage is real,” said Ric Rodriguez, Heart …

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Fighting to save beets

Under weather watch, quotas continue

The damage dealt by a recent freeze is evident on this field of sugar beets, located just north of Powell. Farmers are hoping for warmer temperatures in November to get the crop in.
The damage dealt by a recent freeze is evident on this field of sugar beets, located just north of Powell. Farmers are hoping for warmer temperatures in November to get the crop in.
Tribune photo by Mark Davis
Posted

Even the smell in the air tells the story of freeze-damaged beets.

“You only have to drive by a beet field and the smell will tell that the damage is real,” said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain grower and vice chairman the Western Sugar Cooperative board.

More than a week after the killing frost lifted on Oct 11, the area beet crop has shown signs of some healing. But these facts remain: A big percentage of the crop is still in the ground, and Western Sugar and growers must take measured steps to salvage what they can.

With the warmer temperature since the freeze, the damaged part of the beets has lightened some, which indicates healing. But the beets are still harmed.

“It has not been determined how long they will store, certainly not

long-term,” said Rodriguez.

That has forced a balancing act on Western Sugar: harvest only enough to keep the factory running.

The company’s response has been to run receiving stations to accept deliveries on a pre-determined, ton-per-acre quota basis from growers. The freeze-damaged beets are hauled to the factory in Lovell on a priority basis for immediate processing.

In the last week, most growers finished their quota deliveries on Friday; a few finished Saturday. The harvest was then shut down to get the damaged beets through the factory.

With the colder temperatures forecast for this week, another push-quota will start Tuesday (today).

“The amount [of the quota] is yet to be determined; most likely it will be larger than the two previous quotas to get ahead of the colder temperatures in the forecast. It’s really a day by day assessment,” Rodriguez added.

The October freeze is just the latest in a weather-impacted 2019 season for beet growers.

The amount of the crop left to be harvested “is all over the place,” Rodriguez said.

“Some growers are farther along, and some are behind. Hopefully, we’ll get some more warm temperatures in November and be able to get the crop in,” he said.

The Lovell factory has so far been running well on freeze-damaged beets. Rodriguez credited growers for working overtime to bring in clean, top-free beets.

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