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After a devastating harvest in 2019, sugarbeet growers are presented with a 'comeback' year

After a devastating harvest in 2019, sugarbeet growers are presented with a 'comeback' year

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After a devastating harvest in 2019, sugarbeet growers are presented with a “comeback” year

Farm equipment is seen in fields as harvest was underway outside of Scottsbluff year's in the past. This years record breaking yield forecasts is positive news for local growers who will begin early harvest within a few weeks.

Following a year of difficulty for local growers, USDA and Western Sugar forecasts predict 2020 to be a record breaking year for Nebraska sugar beet production.

Sugar beet yields are forecasted by the USDA to come in at 32.4 tons per acre, up 7 tons from 2019 yield data and breaking the previous record of 31.82 tons per acre set in 2018.

“It is nice that there is something to be happy about and some positive news,” UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center (PREC) Plant Pathologist Robert Harveson said, “It’s important that it (high yields) happen any year, but this is a nice comeback after the disaster last year.”

Nebraska Sugarbeet Growers Association President and local producer Kendall Busch said growers have a sense of relief when it comes to this year's production simply due to early freezes which came along and shut beets down early the last two years in a row.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm out there with early harvest starting here in a couple of weeks,” Busch said. “With our early harvest premium on top of the yields that are actually late September yields, what they are going to be pulling in a couple of weeks is going to be phenomenal.”

As of two weeks ago, data from Western Sugar testing falls in line with USDA forecasts, indicating areas of the Panhandle are producing record setting high yield and sugar content numbers.

“From what we had two weeks ago we are forecasting Nebraska to have a 32.7 ton per acre crop, with 18.75% sugar and those would both be records for the state as long as Mother Nature cooperates with us to finish the year,” South Region Vice President of Agriculture for Western Sugar Cooperative Jerry Darnell said.

A number of factors have attributed to the success of this year's growing season, but most importantly, a season of good weather has been the leading factor in this year's higher than normal yield numbers.

“We have had really good weather so far, our growing year units are ahead of last year by about 20% and so the extra heat is helping and we have had a lot less hail than we had a year ago. We still had some hail but not nearly as much,” Darnell said.

Harveson said he believes nothing in particular has created these record breaking yield numbers, but instead a combination of environmental and growing factors.

“I think it is just a combination of factors, we have just had a great environment without any huge storms, knock on wood, and then I think the growers are just as good as you can be, too,” Harveson said.

According to the USDA’s August production forecasts for the state of Nebraska, 3,700 additional acres of harvest have also been added to the states sugar beet acreage of production, equaling a total 45,800 acres of sugarbeet to be harvested across the state.

Of the states total acreage, the USDA forecasts yield numbers to be 0.58 ton (approximately 1000 pounds) per acre above last years sugar beet yields.

“From our (Western Sugar) testing, it shows all areas are ahead of where we were last year,” Darnell said.

Going forward, Busch said, he hopes market prices can remain firm and recent World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate numbers are currently at “happy medium.”

“The nice thing the way our NAFTA is set up now, we can bring that sugar in from Mexico and keep our confectioners users happy and the producers such as myself happy,” Busch said, “This is really a happy medium, keeping the WASDE right around 13.5 to 14 works for most sides.”

Busch said growers are anxious to get out in the field and see what this harvest will bring.

“I think the sugar beet growers will finally be seeing a very profitable year,” Busch said, “We know its going to be a good crop . . .I am just glad I have sugar beets out in the field.”

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