How to determine sugarbeet harvest losses

Sugarbeet harvest losses can be easily calculated by using a bucket, tape measure and scales. Any loss in excess of 1 ton per acre is excessive and indicates a need for equipment adjustment.

Sugarbeet growers put in a tremendous amount of effort and inputs to maximize yield and quality of sugarbeets. Leaving beets in the field that were missed by the harvester can be costly. A ton of sugarbeets is likely worth between $70 and $80. Often, minor adjustments to equipment and speed can be made to decrease harvest loss and increase profitability. It is important first to determine where losses are coming from and what types of losses. Large beets left in the middle of the row often are an indication that the topper has knocked them out. This is particularly common with uneven emergence and poor stands. This year (2012) with a long spell of dry weather, digging conditions have not been ideal. It is common to see small beets and broken tips left in the row or on the ground. This is part of the lifting operation and adjustments should be made accordingly.

Harvest losses over 1 ton per acre are considered excessive. Determining harvest loss in each field is not a complicated procedure. The only tools that are required are a 5-gallon bucket, tape measure and a small scale. In the field, randomly select at least three locations to determine harvest loss. The locations should represent normal harvesting conditions in the field. The area to be measured should be equal to the number of rows that are harvested (4, 6 or 8) by 10-feet long. Mark the perimeter and this will be the sample area.

Inside the perimeter, pick up all intact beets, broken tails and larger beet fragments. Be sure to drag your foot in the digger trench and pull out any broken off beets still in it. All beet material should be put into the bucket for weighing. Be sure to subtract bucket weight from gross. Find the correct harvest row number and row width, then multiply the weight by the conversion factor listed in Table 1. This will give you harvest loss in tons/acres.

Table 1. Conversion factor for determining harvest yield loss in the field.
Plots should be 10 feet long for each row of the harvester.

Harvested rows

Row width (inches)

Conversion factor

8

20

0.163

4

22

0.297

6

22

0.198

8

22

0.149

4

28

0.233

6

28

0.156

4

30

0.218

6

30

0.145

Example: If you picked up 10 pounds of beets and fragments from a six-row harvester in 30-inch rows, you would have 1.45 tons/acres harvest loss (10 x 0.145). Average together all sampled locations for gross harvest loss for the field.

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