Smoke, heat and rainless summer weather and up-and-down temperatures this fall were no match for sugar beets a crop that keeps delivering. The drought didnt faze Idahos sugar-beet farms because of their ample irrigation supplies, but if dry conditions persist it could become a problem next year, says John Thompson of the Idaho Farm Bureau.
This year is on pace to yield about 35.8 tons per acre of sugar-beet farmland, beating last years record-setting yields by about a ton per acre, says Vic Jaro, president and chief executive officer of Amalgamated Sugar Co., which has processing plants in Paul, Twin Falls and Nampa and warehouses and transfer stations from the Midwest to the West Coast.
The spring wasnt all that great [because of] many days of high winds, 40- to 50-mile-an-hour winds not once or twice but several times, he says. Farmers lost beets to the wind and had to replant about 33,000 acres, he says. Summers heat was unkind to the crops, too, he says.
But thanks in part to genetic engineering, farmers are getting more out of their land.
With Roundup Ready [seeds], were able to control the weeds a lot better, says Conrad Isaak, who farms 80 acres near American Falls. The beets can withstand the herbicide spray, so he loses fewer plants when he sprays and saves money on paying crews to manage weed growth.
The seeds are pricier, but theyre worth it, Isaak says. He is getting about 37 tons per acre on the land he works with his family.
Amalgamated expects seven million tons this year, which will turn into about 6.7 million tons of processed beets. Thats about a half-million ton gain over last year, Jaro says.
Were hoping for good storage weather, meaning no big swings between freeze and thaw temperatures, he says.
Audrey Dutton: 377-6448