GMOs credited in record N.D. beet harvest

Farm Forum

WILLISTON, N.D. — Use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has resulted in a record sugar beet harvest in the area this year.

“In some aspects it was a record breaker,” said Russ Fullmer, of Sidney Sugars.

Producers averaged 30.4 tons of sugar beets per acre, Fullmer said, beating the last record high harvest in 2012. The harvest averaged 18.44 percent sugars-not a record, but still above par.

“It was a good sugar,” Fullmer said. “We’ll take it.”

All of the area sugar beet producers switched over to a glyphosate-resistant strain of GMO beets in 2010, Fullmer said, which he and Chet Hill, an agricultural diversification specialist with the NDSU Ag Extension Agency, attributed to the higher tonnages per acre in recent years. Glyphosate, commonly referred to by the commercial moniker “Roundup,” kills weeds, and glyphosate resistant beets aren’t as affected by the herbicide as non-GMO beets.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in yield,” Hill said. Production used to hover at about 20 tons per acre. “Now the goal is hitting that 25 to 30 tons.”

Good weather did its part in upping this year’s yield, Fullmer said, but that steady addition of five tons per acre on average is the result of GMO beets.

Fullmer believes the GMO crops are and will continue to be a boon to producers.

“Boy, the sky’s the limit,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve reached our peak yet.”

Unfortunately, the market for this particular crop wasn’t as bullish as could be hoped.