Brad Griff, the executive director of the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association, is cautiously optimistic that this year’s crop will be better than the 2019 crop.

“Initially we were thinking it was going to be a similar crop to last year but it looks like it’s going to be better, so I think it’s safe to say we’re going to be north of 18 percent sugar across the growing region, which is very good. It’s what our growers are always striving for,” Griff said.

Last year’s cold snap across Idaho during the first week of October resulted in lower than anticipated sugar content in the sugar beet crop, according to Griff.

“We were on track last year to be above 18 percent and there was that frost in the very first part of October that really decimated the potato crop, but it also had an effect on our sugar beet crop,” he said. “It was a strong enough frost that it shut down all production in the sugar beets.”

Griff said that last year’s crop averaged 17.7 percent sugar content.

The IGSA represents approximately 540 members from five Idaho grower associations.

Randall Grant, president of the ISGA board of directors, said that this year’s growing season started out with a little rough patch during spring planting but the rest of the growing year has been good.

“Spring was a little tough, lot of wind and frost early,” he said, “quite a few replants but once summer got here it was a good, steady, sunny growing summer — just what we need.”

Grant seconded Griff’s projection of the 2020 sugar beet harvest.

“Good quality sugar content probably average to slightly better than average but we’re only approximately 50 percent through the harvest so we got a ways to go,” Grant said. “Harvest weather’s been a little bit on the warm side but dry and just really excellent conditions.”

Grant said that the sugar beets are done bulking up and are now increasing their sugar content.

“Cool nights, not really hard freeze, that causes those beets to produce sugar,” Grant said.

Griff said that with these recent cool nights they are seeing increasing sugar content in the crop.

“This week for example is perfect,” Griff said, “anything where it’s nice and cool. It gets down close to freezing, anything in the 30 degrees, kind of triggers that sugar beet to start storing up the sugar in the beet.”

It all comes down to the fall weather for sugar beet growers, according to Griff.

“This time of year is really prime time,” he said. “Up to this point they’ve been putting on bulk, mass, they’ve been accumulating tons, and that’s important, too, but really the sugar is what separates a good crop from an exceptional crop.”

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Idaho ranks third in the United States for acreage production of sugar beets, behind Minnesota and North Dakota respectively.