Harvesting Sugar Beet Research Plots in 2015

Harvesting Sugar Beet Research Plots in 2015

Harvesters in sugar beet fieldNorthern corn leaf blight symptoms on a corn leaf
Figures 1-2. (Left) Taking stand counts in sugar beet plots prior to harvest. (Right) Sugar beet plot puller in action. (Photos by Gary Stone)
Oct. 14, 2015
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Figure 3. Taking sugar beet samples from weigh box.
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Figure 4. Dumping sugar beets into truck box for delivery to sugar factory.
sugar beets
Figure 5. Dumping sugar beets into truck box for delivery to sugar factory.
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Figure 6. The PHREC sugar beet plot harvest crew, last day!

While producer sugar beet harvest is just getting underway in western Nebraska, harvest of sugar beet research plots was completed this week at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. With good weather and no machinery breakdowns until the last day, over 1,000 plots were harvested over a week’s time. Following is a brief description of the plot harvest process.

A modified sugar beet puller is used to accommodate the special plot harvest requirements. Prior to pulling the sugar beets, a defoliator pulled by a tractor goes through the field, taking four to six rows at a time, defoliating and cutting off the tops of the sugar beet crowns. Then a sugar beet puller, pulled by a tractor, goes through the field, taking two to six rows of sugar beets. With a “normal” sugar beet puller, the beets are lifted (“pulled”) out of the ground, and carried across rollers to knock off excess soil. The sugar beets are then lifted up by a wheel or chains and dumped in the puller “tank” or directly into a truck driving along side of the puller. Those sugar beets that are in the “tank” are carried by more chains and dumped in a truck box. The harvested sugar beets are hauled to the sugar factory where they are piled for processing, and turned into sugar.

The Panhandle REC sugar beet puller has been modified and has an enclosed platform sitting on top of the tank. The sugar beet plots are usually the same length from study to study and either three 22-inch rows or two 30-inch rows are harvested per plot. The plot sugar beets are lifted or pulled in the normal manner, brought up and dumped into a weigh box above the tank. The weight of each plot is taken, then sugar beet samples are taken from the weigh box and placed in either one or two sample bags that have a tag designating the study and plot number. The sample bags are taken to the sugar factory lab and tested for sugar content, tare, and sugar loss to molasses. The weigh box is dumped into the sugar beet puller tank and the next plot is harvested. A plot can be harvested in about 2 minutes. The minimum number on the sugar beet harvest crew for harvest to go smoothly is six on the puller plus the tractor driver and a person to mark the plots for the tractor driver. This year Julie Watine, a college intern from France, join the harvest crew.

Gary Stone
Extension Educator, Panhandle REC