Evaluating Clamp Storage to Help Montana Farmers Adjust to Climate Change-Induced Shortened Harvest Windows

Project Overview

FW21-382
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/01/2022
Grant Recipient: Peritsa Creek Farms Inc.
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Chris Nedens
Peritsa Creek Farms Inc.

Commodities

  • Agronomic: sugarbeets

Practices

  • Crop Production: winter storage
  • Farm Business Management: risk management
  • Pest Management: prevention

    Proposal summary:

    Extreme weather has impacted Montana sugarbeet harvest the past three years. In 2018/2019, early
    snowstorms caused sugar losses so significant, USDA provided disaster assistance. Despite that, growers lost
    money on the 2019 crop. This year, record-breaking heat quickly transitioned to recorded-breaking cold.
    Harvest was delayed since sugarbeets cannot be stored if they are piled too hot and was cut short since
    sugarbeets can’t be stored once frozen. The harvest window now is impossibly short to harvest every acre. Unharvested acres reduce beet payments cooperative-wide and ultimately price individual growers like me out
    of risk coverage (insurance). With new conditions, post-harvest sugarbeet handling needs re-evaluation.
    Elsewhere, farmers use smaller, on-farm storage piles called clamps in addition to/in place of large, regionalized
    pile grounds. Although it cannot be implemented universally, I believe the clamp system would work in certain
    regions of Montana, allowing farmers to harvest sugarbeets faster than capable solely with regional pile
    grounds. However, clamps are not thoroughly vetted in Montana, so we don’t know the risk of storing beets in
    smaller piles. This project is necessary to show initial viability of this approach. Ultimately, I believe the strategic
    use of clamps is one route to allow growers like me to safely speed up harvest, adapting to climate-change
    induced weather changes. Shortening harvest will increase grower profitability/confidence, increase land use
    efficiency, reduce food waste and alleviate grower stress. Data from this project will justify wider-scale clamp
    testing across Western Sugar when project results are disseminated to all grower-owners.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Determine efficacy of local, on-farm storage piles (a.k.a clamps)
    2. Share findings Cooperative management and farmer-owners to evaluate alternatives to regional, off-farm
      piles (a.k.a. pile grounds)
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.