Sugar Beet Campaign: Planting and Harvesting Sugar Beets on the Family Farm

Sugar beets are, and have been, an important cash crop on the family farm for decades. A Michigan woman talks about the process of cultivating sugar beets.


| Good Old Days


Sugar beets have been a family farm crop for many years, and through the years there have been many changes in their planting, thinning and harvesting.

The first sugar beet seeds literally exploded when planted, causing one seed to produce up to 15 little beet plants. Since there should be only one beet in about 10 to 12 inches of space, it was necessary to thin the beets. One person would block with the hoe, and the next person would crawl behind and from the clump pull out all beets except one. This, of course, was a very tedious job that required many hours of work.

In time, through experimentation, a segmented seed was developed, preventing so many beets from developing from one seed. Mechanical thinners also became popular for eliminating the extra beets in the row. We had a "Blackwelder" thinner that my husband simply attached to the back of the tractor. It was a device that covered about a two-inch clump of beets, cutting out about eight inches of other beets. We then followed in the row with a hoe, and removed all beets except one plant from this clump. At that time my children, along with some of their friends, and I thinned about 50 acres of beets in a year.

We now have what is called a mono-germ sugar beet seed. This means that only one plant comes up from one seed. Now the sugar beets are space planted, and the hand labor of thinning beets is completely eliminated.



When the farmer plants the beet seed, he also sprays herbicides in an eight- to l0-inch band on the beet row. In ideal weather conditions, the spray literally eliminates all weeds from coming up in the sugar beet row, again saving the hand labor of weeding the beets with a hoe. However, the beets need to be cultivated several times during the growing season to prevent the weeds from growing between the rows, which could literally choke the growing sugar beet. Ideally, the beets are planted in early April, but there are times when weather doesn't permit the farmer to do any planting until late May.

Beets were originally harvested by hand, but in the early '40s, a mechanical beet harvester that was pulled by a tractor appeared on the scene. This harvested one or two rows of beets at one time. Defoliators, which beat the leaves off the beets before the harvester came along and lifted the beets out of the ground, were also invented.







mother earth news fair 2018 schedule

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE









Subscribe today

Capper's FarmerWant to rediscover what made grandma’s house the fun place we all remember? Capper’s Farmer — the newly restored publication from the rural know-how experts at Grit.com — updates the tried-and-true methods your grandparents used for cooking, crafting, gardening and so much more. Subscribe today and discover the joys of homemade living and homesteading insight — with a dash of modern living — that makes up the new Capper’s Farmer.

Save Even More Money with our automatic renewal savings plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 4 issues of Capper's Farmer for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $22.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265