Colorado Beet Harvest Begins as Frost Comes

Published online: Sep 10, 2020 News Jack Harvel
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Source: The Fort Morgan Times

Sugarbeet piles in front of the Western Sugar Cooperative plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., are appearing as the 2020 harvest begins earlier than many years.

The piles began appearing Tuesday, not long before what was thought could be the season’s first frost, with a freeze warning issued by the National Weather Service from 6 p.m. on Tuesday to noon on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Morgan County. Though the frost could be detrimental to many crops, the harvest of sugar beets shouldn’t be affected.

“This weather here for sugar beets is not going to affect much of it because the beet is growing underground and it’s not going to get that terribly cold,” Marlin Eisenach, an Extension agent with Colorado State University, said Tuesday. “It could freeze, but it’s not going to hurt the harvest of the sugar beets at all.”

The harvest began early this year, so there should be no issues come spring.

“They’re trying to get those sugar beets all processed before too early in the spring because once it starts turning warm in the spring there can be some damage in the pile,” Eisenach said.

Sugarbeets will be okay during the frost, but corn could be seriously damaged. It could be especially harmful to corn silage, a feed crop that includes both corn and its stalk.

“Some of the field corn is not really mature enough to take a freeze, and that can make an effect on the yield,” Eisenach said. “What happens in the corn silage is once it freezes it starts losing moisture in the stock and everything, and you need moisture in the corn stalk to ferment the corn silage when we pile it.”

The average first killing freeze of the season in Morgan County is on Oct. 8, potentially putting this season well ahead of schedule.

“Here we are with all this hot weather, and then looking at a frost here as early as Sept. 8,” Eisenach said. “No two years are the same, but it’s a very odd year.”

The freeze is troubling, but the water that comes with it could help with the wheat season after a hot and dry summer.

“We always like the moisture because farmers are getting ready to plant wheat, and the soil moisture is very short on the top soil, so the moisture is a benefit,” Eisenach said. “If we could just keep away from the freeze.”