BAY CITY, Mich.— The Michigan sugar beet harvest didn't top last year's bumper crop but growers seem satisfied after a wet fall.

Michigan Sugar, a major grower-owned cooperative, said it harvested nearly 4.97 million tons of beets with 18 percent sugar content, 30,000 tons under the spring estimate and 200,000 tons below 2010 production. The last beets came in about two weeks ago.

Some growers were hit with additional cleaning fees because beets came out of muddy ground.

"We had a difficult harvest season with it being wet," Paul Pfenninger, a Michigan Sugar vice president, told The Bay City Times ( ). "Our numbers weren't quite what we were hoping for when we planted spring, but we're not disappointed with them at all. ... We've probably got the second-best harvest industry-wide."

Beets are a major crop in Michigan, with more than 1,000 growers on 150,000 acres, especially in the Thumb region. The beets are turned into sugar at Michigan Sugar factories in Bay, Sanilac, Tuscola and Huron counties.

Beets now are being sliced for processing, work that should last through March. Sugar is sold in stores under the Pioneer and Big Chief labels.

Growers still need to get their fields tilled before winter.

"They need to get out there and get things worked up so we can get back on the fields next spring," Pfenniger said. "We don't even get done with one crop and we're thinking about planting the next year's. But we're very happy with where we ended this year."

source: chicagotribune


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