Early Beet Harvest Under Way in Nebraska

Published online: Sep 18, 2017 News Spike Jordan
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With only half a hopper full of sugarbeets, Bill Wurdeman had to stop on the side of a pivot east of Mitchell, Neb., last Thursday morning and isolate an electrical issue with his beet harvester.

Wurdeman’s beets were bound for the Western Sugar factory in Torrington, Wyo., and after a bit of troubleshooting, the harvester was up and running again. Wurdeman punched in coordinates for the field into the tractor’s GPS unit and was ready to take off.

Wurdeman has no shortage of work; he’s balancing the early beet harvest with his bean harvest.

“We were hoping to combine this afternoon, but we had a spot of rain this morning,” Wurdeman said. “If it’s too wet, the beans won’t shell out and the vines get kind of raggy and make a mess. The whole weekend doesn’t sound good for combining.”

Wurdeman was supposed to start harvesting beets on Wednesday; however, at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, Western Sugar called off early harvest for 24 hours. Both the Scottsbluff and Torrington factories had surplus tonnage and needed to catch up.

“During early harvest, we only keep three days’ worth of beets on the ground,” Jerry Darnell, vice president of agriculture for Western Sugar, said Thursday.

Keeping the stockpiles low prevents spoilage until cooler weather arrives in the Nebraska Panhandle and eastern Wyoming, affording the factories more time to process the piled beets.

So far, Western Sugar has purchased about 60,000 tons of beets from growers in the area with an average sugar content of 15.5 percent, Darnell said.

By the end of harvest, Darnell said Western Sugar will have purchased about 1.6 million tons of beets in total.

The full beet harvest is expected to begin by Oct. 6.


Source: Scottsbluff Star Herald