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Regular sugar beet harvest slated to begin Oct. 6

Regular sugar beet harvest slated to begin Oct. 6

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Local farmer Kendall Busch and his small crew were opening the land Friday, getting ready for regular sugar beet harvest set to begin Oct. 6.

“Right now, we’re just going and taking the cross row off on each end of the field. Then, we’ll make lands where the trucks come through, that way when the semis come in everything is all opened up and ready to go,” Busch said.

For Busch, this is just the beginning of the harvest.

“Right now, we are defoliating and pulling beets,” he said. “It’s so time consuming to do it like this, that’s why we’re doing earlier harvesting. During regular harvest, we want all this done so we can get the semis and the bigger trucks here and get going.”

Right now, Busch will top a strip of about six rows of beets and his father, Robert Busch, will come up behind him with the beet harvester. They aren’t able to go full speed because the land isn’t open, Busch said.

“He can go maybe 500 yards before he has to stop and dump because you cannot harvest on the go unless the beets are pulled beside the puller,” he said.

To make that possible, they’ll harvest strips 12 rows wide in several spots to make it possible for the trucks to travel beside the harvester to load as they go down the rows.

Busch, the president of the Nebraska Sugarbeet Growers Association, said sugar beets are around 10% to 13% harvested before regular harvest is slated to begin this week.

“It looks like it could be kind of a very hot week, so there’s a chance we will probably delay regular harvest for three or four days. It’s hard to tell.

“I will take a look at the forecast Monday and see what it’s looking like. Right now, it’s showing lower 80s. The core of the beet has to be at least 50 degree or below to store in a beet pile,” he said.

So far, Busch said, the beets look to be in good shape with a good amount of sugar content.

“There’s an old wives tale that if a beet bruises red it has pretty good sugar in it, and that does kind of hold true,” he said.

Though, he said, technology has made everything so much easier that it doesn’t take the sugar factory long to report what the sugar content is of their beets.

“You get the results from the tare lab in about two days. You can check (the results on) their app. It used to be all paper they sent home with you on sugar slips they gave to the truck driver. Now they have the app where you can check out your sugar samples that way,” he said.

The sugar content is how the farmer makes his money, Busch explained.

“It used to be you wanted a lot of tons. It’s not the case anymore. You want a higher sugar content, and so does the factory because it is easier to process that beet — you’re running sugar through the factory instead of beet pulp. Beet pulp is great for feed, but it’s not great for making sugar,” he said.

So far, Busch said his beets have had good sugar content.

“Sugars have been good. They’re rendering about 18 and a half, which is really good for this time of year, but it’s very dry out there. The tonnage isn’t going to be the best simply because without any water, the soil starts dehydrating a little bit, so the tons might go but the sugar goes up. It’s kind of a catch 22 ... usually dry ground means better sugar,” he said.

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Jeff Van Patten is the sports editor of the Star-Herald. Jeff can be reached by calling 308-632-9048 or emailing jeff.vanpatten@starherald.com.

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