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American Crystal Sugar Co.’s growers dug their heels in the dirt this week to open the annual sugar beet prepile harvest across the Red River Valley.

The early harvest, which entails approximately 15 percent of the 410,000 acres the company’s farmers planted in 2021, kicked off Tuesday with an average yield estimated around 25.5 tons per acre.

Over the coming months, the company’s 2,800 growers are estimated to haul roughly 10.5 million tons of sugar beets to American Crystal’s piling sites, according to the company.

“We’d planned to start (prepile) a week earlier, but with the dry conditions we’ve had, we pushed it back,” said Steve Rosenau, who’s in his first season as American Crystal’s director of agriculture.

The 2021 yield is expected to be slightly lower than historical averages.

A mild, dry winter allowed farmers to get into their fields in April, but moderate to extreme drought conditions persisted throughout much of the summer across the Red River Valley.

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