BRAWLEY — Steve Reeves Ranches, a farm almost 15 miles northeast of Brawley, was quiet Saturday morning.
Only a couple of trucks went in and out of the fenced property. A tractor with a boom sprayer left the ranch but came back after less than an hour. It was windy and the summer heat was rising. Sugar beet season was almost over.
“The only thing we plant this time of year is Bermuda grass,” said Reeves, whose crews have been preparing the fields the past two weeks.
“We were working up the ground to make a nice soft dirt,” said Reeves, this involves chiseling the ground, disking and flooding using tractors and other farm equipment. These farming operations were learned together with his brother growing up with their father.
According to Reeves, the crops he grows throughout the year include alfalfa for silage, Bermuda grass for seeds, dehydrated onions, Sudan grass, sugar beets, and wheat.
Unwanted weeds, compete and reduce the crop yield of sugar beets. Because of this problem, he uses Roundup Ready Sugar Beet seeds.
“It has decreased a lot of labor pulling weeds,” said Steve Reeves who innovated the use of RRSB seeds that make sugar beets tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate.
Years ago, in the early 2000s, “Since the deregulation in 2005, RRSB have been widely commercialized in the United States. In the 2009-10 crop year, RRSB varieties accounted for about 95 percent of planted sugar beet crop,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website.
Sugar beets are planted during the first week of September and harvested the following August. Driving on northbound or southbound along Highway 86 Imperial Valley, motorists will notice drivers hauling truckloads of sugar beets to Spreckels (formerly Holly Sugar) on Keystone Road, a road between the cities of Imperial and Brawley. According to Reeves, sugar beets are boiled to extract sugar.
“When fully grown, a sugar beet is about a foot long, weighs two-to-five pounds, and is about 18 percent sucrose,” according to the American Sugar beet Growers Association website. “Beet sugar represents about 54 percent of domestically-produced sugar. There is no difference between beet and cane sugar.”