Finishing the harvest in the cold

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William Schenk was racing to beat the frost.

The Wyoming area farmer is one of several Lambton County farmers who have a contract to grow sugar beets for Michigan Sugar. In all, about 10,000 acres of the turnip-looking plant are grown in Ontario – mainly in Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent.

Schenk has about 100 acres of beets. He says beets are high profit makers, but are susceptible to weather and fungus. The fungus he takes care of with added herbicide applications. The weather he can’t control.

So on Monday, Schenk was working with an employee from his contracted harvester, John Noorloos, to get the last 50 acres of the beets out of the ground before a killing frost.

The Lambton crop is stronger than Chatham-Kent’s this year. This area didn’t receive as much spring rain which can lead to a lower yield. But Schenk says they were hampered by last week’s snow.

“Normally, beets are done by Nov. 15,” he says as the harvester dumps beets into the wagon behind his tractor. “Frost is hard on beets. Another frost and these beets would have been rejected.”

That threat seems very real as pellets of snow hit the cabin of the tractor.

The harvest was also slowed because of Sunday night’s rain. Schenk had planned to be on the field first thing Monday but instead had to wait until late afternoon so the ground could dry out enough for the heavy machinery to get onto the field.

But Schenk is confident the work will be done. He planned to work through the night until the crop is in the ground.

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