Oct 2, 2015

Bean farmers enjoyed a hot September; beet farmers hope for a cooler October

The weather this fall has been like an ill-fated attempt at homemade beef jerky — hot and dry. While the Big Horn Basin’s bean farmers enjoyed a hotter than average September, the local sugar beet farmers are hoping October brings cooler weather.

“I love fall and cold temperatures. I am ready for them and they aren’t happening,” said Wyoming Seed Certification Manager Mike Moore.

Farmers are hoping for cooler temps during the long-term beet harvest, which starts this week. Cody News Co. photo by Toby Bonner
Beans, beets, alfalfa and just about everything is harvesting earlier and in bigger quantities than in previous years.

“It has been unseasonably warm for September; we usually get a frost here and there,” said Ric Rodriguez, a Powell farmer and vice-chairman of the Western Sugar Cooperative Board of Directors.

In addition to less rain than usual by this point in the year, temperatures have been about 14-15 degrees warmer on average for the month of September. Cody averaged 69 degrees, with a high of 90 and a low of 45. Powell averaged 66 degrees, with a high of 91 and a low of 41.

The dry bean harvest that Moore’s office deals with was 80-90 percent complete as of Tuesday morning. Normally, they are about 30-40 percent complete.

“We are all but done,” Moore said. “The weather has been conducive.”

About the only aspect to this season’s weather that wasn’t ideal so far was late-season precipitation.

In the spring, there was an unusual amount of rain that fell almost daily in May. Now the Cody area is 2.01 inches short for annual rainfall at 7.03 inches, and the Powell area is 0.92 inches behind schedule, at 5.09 inches, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bean farmers are looking for dew to toughen up their crops before harvesting them, Moore said.

“That is just unheard of,” Moore said. “The positive is everyone will be done with beans before digging beets, and that is huge. They can focus on one crop instead of two or three — I am not seeing a down side.”

The warm and dry weather also is great for the alfalfa seed harvests, since harvesting becomes less challenging, Moore said.

“For some of it, we won’t know if it is good or bad until harvested,” Moore said. “I don’t remember seeing sunflowers this mature at this time of the year, ever.”

There has been some concern among cattle ranchers in the area regarding grasses in the mountains not having enough moisture to go into the dormant cycle, Moore said.

By this point last year, the area already had experienced some snowfall and frosty mornings. Instead, air conditioners have been on and jackets have been off.

Moore estimated temperatures will remain 10-15 degrees above normal through November.

COOLER WEATHER NEEDED FOR BEETS
Beet harvests haven’t been impacted by the heat yet, since they are being delivered to the processing plant in Lovell quickly, Rodriguez said. Long-term storage can be damaging when temperatures are above 80 degrees, and the long-term harvest is scheduled to begin on Friday.

“It needs to cool off for long-term storage on Friday,” Rodriguez said. “The plan now is to stay on scheduled delivery until the weather cools off enough so we can get them in the piles.”

Sugar beets need to be cooler than 55 degrees, so they are sampled once they are loaded onto the trucks.

When the weather gets in the 75-80-degree range, it warms the ground and the beets don’t get to cool off, Rodriguez said.

Looking ahead, the forecast is supposed to cool off and bring some precipitation so beets can be stored long-term, Rodriguez said.

“When I look on Accuweather, it shows temperatures in the 30s at night and lower 70s (during the day), and those are what we need,” Rodriguez said.

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