Growing up around Missouri agriculture, I am very familiar with basic Midwestern crops – soy, corn, etc. That made my visit to Colorado to meet with sugarbeet farmers that much more exciting. A highlight of my trips is the amount of information and knowledge I gain about a particular area. This time I learned about a crop and an area I knew very little about.
After my plane landed, I went to Western Sugar; a grower-owned processing facility owned (a co-op). I was amazed to learn one acre of sugar beets goes through the plant every six minutes! The product of that is the sugar you find at the store or in packets at restaurants. The amount of actual sugar content from each beet varies by area; in Northeastern Colorado the sugar content was 15 percent. The beet byproduct is then used for cattle feed.
When I asked the plant manager and growers about the difference between Genuity™ Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and conventional sugarbeets their passion for the crop they grow showed. They told me sugar is sugar! The growers explained that several tests have been done and there is no difference between conventional sugarbeet sugar and Genuity™ Roundup Ready® sugarbeet sugar.
It was really great to see how environmentally friendly these farmers are. The introduction of Genuity™ Roundup Ready® sugarbeets has made sugarbeet farming more environmentally friendly and less work for farmers. Before, they would have to make four or five passes over the field with chemicals because sugar beets are such a weedy crop. With the Roundup Ready® technology, they only have to make one pass! The farmers I spoke with were very thankful for that because it saves them time and money.
When I think about Colorado farming, I don’t think about water being an issue. Almost all the corn and sugarbeet acres they grow are irrigated. But because of water shortages in Nebraska and Kansas, they don’t even know the future of their water source. In fact, there are several farmers in the area I was in who have no access to water for irrigation, therefore have no water to even run their pivot irrigation systems. And without irrigation they grow wheat, millet, or nothing at all.
This defines the need for more sustainable agriculture, including drought technology. The survival of small communities like the ones in Colorado depends upon access to water. Many of the rural areas are very desolate and they’re afraid if farmers don’t have access to water for irrigation in the future, they won’t be able to farm. If they’re not able to farm, then the small communities will be gone because there won’t be agriculture to support it. It’s a scary thought, and one that could be a reality sooner than we think.
Colorado was beautiful and the people were great. But it took a while to get used to every city limit sign saying “Elevation“versus the town’s population.
You can check out Tyne’s Colorado harvest update, as well as information on sugarbeets on Monsanto.com
For more photos of Tyne’s trip, check out the slideshow on Flickr