N.D. farmers in 5 communities learn more about industrial beets

By Sue Retka Schill | March 17, 2014

A second round of farmer and community meetings are underway this week in North Dakota laying the foundation for industrial beet production. Also called energy beets, industrial beets are varieties bred for industrial sugars that can be converted to a wide range of biofuels and chemicals. This week’s meetings will provide farmers with economic information and tools to help them decide whether to grow industrial beets. Inputs, equipment, production costs and expected returns will be discussed.

The first round of grower education meetings were undertaken in January, said David Ripplinger, North Dakota State University Extension Service bioproducts and bioenergy economist. “Farmers are definitely interested, but want more information before making the decision to grow.”  NDSU trial yields have been very good, he said, averaging about 25 tons under dryland conditions and nearly 10 tons higher when irrigated.  “What’s most impressive is that most of the trials have been held under less than ideal conditions,” he added. The extension meetings are covering a number of the considerations that will be needed when considering the new crop, such as crop rotations, herbicide carryover and comparative profitability.

NDSU has been working with a N.D.-based Green Vision Group to conduct a variety of economic, environmental and engineering studies to determine the feasibility of the project. The series of meetings is being held in areas being considered for the location of the first facility. 

Meeting locations, dates and times are:

- Jamestown – Tuesday, March 18, 1 to 3 p.m., Farmers Union headquarters

- Valley City – Tuesday, March 18, 9 to 11 a.m., Eagles Club

- Cando – Wednesday, March 19, 1 to 3 p.m., Extension Service office, Towner County

- Carrington – Wednesday, March 19, 9 to 11 a.m., Carrington Research Extension Center

- Langdon – Thursday, March 20, 1 to 3 p.m., Cavalier County Courthouse

The development of beets as a new industrial crop is a partnership between Green Vision Group based in Fargo and Heartland Renewable Energy based in Muscatine, Iowa. The research component is led by NDSU. The North Dakota Renewable Energy Council, North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission and many communities and private companies have provided additional project funding.