Beta vulgaris L.
Garden beets, Chard, Sugar beets, Mangel, Spinach beet
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
All the above crops are included in the subsp. vulgaris. Chard and
spinach beet are grown for the leaves which are used as a potherb. Garden
beets are grown for the roots which are eaten cooked, as a vegetable, in salads
or pickled. Mangels, developed from chard, are an important cattle food in
Europe. From the mangel the sugar beet was developed. By selection, the sugar
content has been raised from 5 to more than 20%. About one-third of the
world's production of sugar is from sugar beets, the second most important
source of sugar.
The decoction prepared from the seed is a folk remedy for tumors of the
intestines. Seed, boiled in water, is said to cure genital tumors. The juice
or other parts of the plant is said to help tumors, leukemia and other forms of
cancer, e.g. cancer of the breast, esophagus, glands, head, intestines, leg,
lip, lung, prostate, rectum, spleen, stomach, and uterus. Some figure that
betacyanin and anthocyanin are important in the exchange of substances of
cancer cells; others note two main components of the amines, choline and its
oxidation product betaine, whose absence produces tumors in mice (List and
Horhammer, 19691979). A decoction is used as a purgative by those who suffer
from hemorrhoids in South Africa. The juice has been applied to ulcers.
Leaves and roots used as an emmenagogue. Plant effective in feline ascariasis.
In the old days, beet juice was recommended for anemia and yellow jaundice,
and, put into the nostrils to purge the head, clear ringing ears, and alleviate
toothache. Beet juice in vinegar was said to rid the scalp of dandruff as
scurf, and was recommended to prevent falling hair. Juice of the white beet
was said to clear obstructions of the liver and spleen. Culpepper (1653)
recommended it for headache and vertigo as well as all "affections of the
Per 100 g, the leaf is reported to contain 45 calories, 86.4 g H2O, 3.2 g
protein, 0.4 g fat, 8.1 g total carbohydrate, 3.8 g fiber, 1.9 g ash, 114 mg
Ca, 34 mg P, 3.1 mg Fe, 3152 mg b-carotene quivalent, 0.07 mg thiamine, 0.22
mg riboflavin, 0.6 mg niacin, and 50 mg ascorbic acid. English root analyses
showed 76.6% water, 1.1% protein, 0.1% oil, 20.4 soluble carbohydrates, 1.1%
fiber, and 0.7% ash. On a zero-moisture basis the roots contain 339336
calories, 12.614.3% protein, 0.81.6% fat, 77.979.4% total carbohydrate,
6.39.0% fiber, 6.08.7% ash, 115182 mg Ca, 259323 mg P, 5.58.7 mg Fe,
286472 mg Na, 2619 2638 mg K, 0.094.5 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.080.24
mg thiamine, 0.320.39 mg riboflavin, 1.643.15 mg niacin, and 2379 mg
ascorbic acid (Duke and Atchley, 1984). The pulp, after sugar extraction,
contains ca 30% galacturonic acid in the form of pectic substances. This acid
is a good starting base for vitamin C synthesis. Allantoin, saponins, copper,
and betaine are also reported. Hager's Handbook mentions two betaxanthines,
vulgaxanthine I and vulgaxanthine II, kaempferol glycoside, chlorogenic and
caffeic acid. Roots contain leucine, tryptophane, valine, alanine,
phenylalanine, tyrosine, glutamine, glutamic acid, ornithine, five other amino
acide, 0.01% essential oil with farnesol. Leaves contain quercitin glucoside,
a vitexin combination with glucose, xylose, and 3-hydroxytyramine,
b-sitosterol, and a suite of organic acids, oxalic-, tricarballyl-,
aconitic-, ferulic-. Roots, herbage, and seeds contain raphanol, and coniferin
(C16H22O8), Vit. A, B, and C, and betaine. Roots contain a crude oil with
palmitic-, oleic-, erucic-, and gamma-aminobutyric acids, free and bound
invertase and pectolytic enzymes.
Feeding sugar beet to sheep has caused renal calculi, composed of uric and
phosphoric acids with lime. Fresh leaf may also cause poisoning due to the 1%
oxalic acid therein. Leaf may also contain dangerous levels of HCN and/or
nitrates and nitrites. Betaine acts as a mild diuretic. Beet pollen can cause
hay fever. Sugar appears to have caused dermatitis in two-thirds of the
workers in one crystallizing department.
Annual or biennial herb; leaves glabrous, ovate to cordate, dark green or
reddish, frequently forming a rosette from the underground stem;roots
conspicuously swollen at junction with stem; flowering stalk 1.21.8 m tall,
produced the second year from the top of the tuber; flowers small, numerous in
a tall open panicle; fruit an aggregate of 2 or more fruits forming an
irregular dry body; in garden beets, roots are usually a deep red color and may
be globular or cylindrical; in chard and spinach beet, leaves have thickened
midribs; in sugar beet, taproot is white and deep-penetrating. Fl. JuneSept.
x = 9; 2n = 18.
Many varieties available, some having developed resistance to major diseases;
monogerm varieties of excellent quality also available. All forms seem to be
interfertile and are wind-pollinated, but are self-incompatible. In 1964 a
pollen-sterile inbreed was released, suitable for F1 hybrid table beets. Best
varieties are: 'Early Wonder', 'Detroit Dark Red', 'Ruby Queen', and 'Crosby'.
Reported from the Eurosiberian, Central Asia, and Mediterranean Centers of
Diversity, beet or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate aluminum, disease,
frost, fungus, hydrogen floride, high pH, manganese, salt, nematode, phage,
poor soil, slope, smog, SO2 and virus. 2n = (18, 27, 36).
The ancestor of Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris is subsp.
maritima, growing wild on the seashores of southern Britain, through
Europe and Asia to the East Indies. Beets and their relatives are grown
throughout the world for human and stock food.
Beets and their relatives require a cool climate, and are able to withstand
mild frost. In the southern part of their range they are a fallspring crop,
while in the northern part they are a summerfall crop. Table beets develop
light-colored bands if the weather is too hot. In the sugar beet, the sugar
content is highest in cool temperatures with good sunlight. Beets grow well in
a variety of soils, growing best in a deep, friable well-drained soil abundant
with organic matter, but poorly on clay. Optimum pH is 6.06.8, but neutral
and alkaline soils are tolerated in some areas. Some salinity may be tolerated
after the seedling stage. Beets are notable for their tolerance to manganese
toxicity. Ranging from Boreal Moist to Rain through Tropical Very Dry Forest
Life Zones, beet is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 23 to 31.5 dm
(mean of 110 cases = 8.8), annual temperature of 5.0 to 26.6°C (mean of 110
cases = 12.0°C), and pH of 4.2 to 8.2 (mean of 99 cases = 6.3).
Beet crops are propagated from seed, sown in early spring when the ground is
suitable for tilling. In home gardens successive plantings may be made every
1014 days until 34 plantings are in, to insure a continuing supply of fresh
tender beets. The main crop, grown for processing or for fall and winter
marketing, especially in the North, should be planted in May or June. Seed is
drilled at intervals of 1.52 cm in rows 3045 cm apart, at the rate of 46
kg/ha, and covered about 1.3 cm deep. The beet ball (seed) varies in size and
the seeds germinate irregularly, so that a uniform crop is difficult to attain.
Screening the seeds enhances the chance of getting a more uniform crop. When
the beets are large enough to eat as beet greens with the small beets attached,
rows should be thinned so that the remaining plants stand about 7.510 cm apart.
Shallow cultivation should be given to control the weeds. Most cultivation is
done by hand weeding, hand cultivators or small tractor cultivators, as the
lateral roots are very shallow and are easily damaged. Beet seed retain their
viability for 56 years under average storage conditions. They should be
treated to prevent damp-off and seed rot. Germination is best at
1824°C. Seed stalks are likely to be produced after temperatures of
510°C for 15 days or longer. After a soil test, commercial fertilizers
containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potash may be added. Fertilizer may also
be added as green manures, crop residues, animal manure and compost.
Monoculture, and beet crops should not be rotated with cole (Brassica) crops,
which are hosts for sugar beet nematodes; otherwise, plant beets in rotation.
For fresh market, beets are harvested when 45 cm in diameter, and bunches 46;
those 510 cm in diameter are sold as topped beets. Topped beets in
transparent film bags have a longer shelf life than bunched beets with the tops
attached. Most home and local beets are hand pulled, washed to remove adhering
soil and variously marketed. Beets grown commercially for canning and frozen
foods are harvested by a mechanical beet harvester, which lifts the beets, cuts
off the tops, and conveys the topped beets to a truck alongside the harvester.
The beets are then delivered to canneries, storage warehouses or to market.
Beets more than 7.5 cm in diameter are in low demand, and they can only be used
for diced beets or baby food products. Beets may be stored in cold, moist,
root cellars for 35 months, at temperatures near the freezing point, but they
should not be allowed to freeze. Humidity should be about 90%.
For seed, mangels yield 1,100 kg/ha; for garden beet seed, 6001,200 kg/ha; for
sugar-beets, open-pollinated varieties, 1,5002,000 kg/ha, hybrids, 2,5003,000
kg/ha. Sugar-beets yield 5 tons sugar/ha. The 19691970 world production of
sugar beets: Europe 105,146,000 MT; North America 26,140,000 MT; Latin America
1,471,000 MT; Near East 7,395,000 MT; Far East 2,253,000 MT;Africa 1,007,000
MT. Beet sugar 1969 wholesale prices in US cents/kg: Denmark 24.5; France
20.9; Fed. Rep. Germany 24.4; Italy 34.9; Netherlands 31.9; Spain 21.0. The
world production of beets of all varieties approximates 300,000,000 MT.
World-wide production of sugar-beets in 1967 was 7.4 million ha.
Sugar beet wastes are estimated as 1.22 times sugar production, since the total
dry matter of processing wastes and field wastes exceed the weight of sugar in
the ratio of 55:45. Some or all of this may be used for fodder. In Britain,
following cereal harvest, Palz and Chartier (1980) estimate an additional 3
MT/ha dry biomass could be obtained by planting fodder beet. Taking the
average sugar beet yield of ca 6 MT sugar per hectare, about 13.5 MT DM will
usually be obtained; the cost is likely to be close to $73.9/MT or $4.2 per GJ.
At this figure, assuming 70% of the beet solids is sucrose, 62% of the total
dry weight is root and 90% of theoretical conversion of beet sucrose to
recovered alcohol, the feedstock costs alone to a sugar beet alcohol plant will
be some $303/MT of alcohol produced and onto this the cost of transport to the
plant and the processing costs (which, with present technology, involve heavy
energy expenditure), must be added. These costs may be reduced if all residues
are returned to the land (with or without prior passage through farm animals)
but the effect upon such heavy costs will be marginal. Moreover, the above
costs take no account of farmer's interest charges and profit; at present,
sugar beet gives the farmer his best gross margin, estimated at $1,334/ha;
therefore, the cost of beet to a purchaser is around $50/MT or $225/MT,
$15.0/GJ gross thermal content. Due to lower insolation and crop growth, and
more expensive and scarcer land, the prospects are for European alcohol to
remain more expensive than that produced in the tropics. It may be of
interest, however, to consider what area of good quality arable land would be
needed to supply a certain quantity of energy, say 5% of estimated 1985
consumption in the Community, which is an amount calculated to make a major
impact upon the overall supply of fuel for transportation purposes. This would
amount to some 2,600 x 106 GJ/y. With sugar beet yielding approximately 240
GJ/ha/y, 45% of it convertible to alcohol, 108 GJ/ha/y will be obtainable in
the form of liquid fuel. Hence, about 24 x 106 ha would be
required, about thirteen times the area at present planted with sugar beet and
54% of the total arable area of the Community. Even then, all the required
process energy, cultivation and fertilizer energy would have to be provided
from other sources. To obtain these energy inputs from the sugar beet crop
itself would demand a substantially greater area, depending upon the efficiency
of cultivation and processing. The need might well encompass the entire arable
area of the Community. In practice, therefore, it is difficult to visualise a
situation in which more than 1% of the total Community energy demand could be
met by sugar beet alcohol, since this would entail re-allocation of over 4.5
million hectares of good arable land even if there were very substantial inputs
of other forms of fuel. In short, it seems apparent that, compared with the
situation in Brazil, where fuel alcohol production from biomass is increasing
rapidly, the prospects in the Community are far less attractive (Palz and
Chartier, 1980). For alcohol production, chicory and Jerusalem artichoke,
which both have a high content of easily hydrolysed inuli, may have a technical
advantage over cellulose feedstocks that could be derived from perennial energy
plantations. However, as cellulose hydrolysis methods improve, alcohol from
cellulosic feedstocks may become comparable in cost to that from grains and
sugary, inuliferous, or starchy feedstocks. In Europe, sugarbeet is likely to
be preferred among non-cellulosic crops for alcohol production because the
carbohydrate is in an immediately fermentable form, whereas the starchy crops
like potato and Jerusalem artichoke do not offer better yields, yet require
hydrolysis as an extra step (Palz and Chartier, 1980). Australians are getting
2,500 gallons (ca 10,000 liters) of alcohol per hectare from a newly developed
fodder beet, which is, however, susceptible to curly-top virus and hence
unsuitable for the western US. John Galian from the University of Idaho is
evaluating 65 lines of fodder beets for alcohol potential and seeking
high-yielding hybrids between sugarbeets and fodder beets. Energy beets do not
need to be low in N, Na and K, which interfere with sugar extraction. Nor does
the presence of sugars other than sucrose interfere with fermentation and
distillation (McGill, 1981). Sugarbeet in New Zealand showed an average
biomass yield of 9.6 MT/ha. But under intensive cultivation, beet, over 240
days in California, had a mean growth rate of 14 g/m2/day for
production of 33.8 MT/ha; in Netherlands, the same growth rate over 160 days
yielded production of 22 MT/ha (Boardman, 1980). In UK, prices for sugarbeet
on a GJ basis are not much more than twice those for coal "we may be nearer
than we think to shovelling sugar into our domestic and power station boilers
if coal prices continue to rise!" (Swift-Hook, 1980). For Australia,
irrigated sugarbeet yields were estimated at 50 MT/ha (8 MT sugar), rainfed at
35 MT (5.6 MT sugar). Conversion rates were estimated at 130 MT commercial
sugar, 45 MT molasses, and 63 MT dried beet pulp from 1000 MT beet. In two
unirrigated trials, fodder beets averaged 20.8 and 17.3 MT ha DM root with 2.9
and 3.7 MT tops (DM). The estimated cost of fodder beet delivered to the
factory in New Zealand was $40 MT (DM) and the estimatedcost of production of
ethanol in plant of 0.68 PJ yearly capacity using current technology was $0.15
per liter of which $0.09 covered the cost of feedstock and $0.06 covered
conversion costs (when petrol in Australia was $0.15 to $0.19 per liter). The
beet pulp can be anaerobically fermented to produce methane as a source of
energy for the distillery. Ca 75% of the energy in the pulp can be converted
to methane under mesophilic conditions with solids retention time of ca 8 days
(Stewart et al., 1979). In California, Hills et al. (1983) reported ca
50006650 liter alcohol/ha for sugarbeets, ca 57007600 liter for fodderbeets,
compared to 3300 to 4400 for corn, and 4000 to 5400 for sweet sorghum. The
fodderbeet yields approached 50 barrels per hectare at a cost of less than
$50.00 per barrel. For maximum alcohol yield, fodderbeet required ca 100 kg
N/ha, sugarbeet ca 50, compared to 200 for corn and 0 for sorghum (Hills et
al., 1983). Best experimental yields with fodderbeet were 48 bbls/ha at
Diseases in commercial crops are relatively few in number. The most serious is
Beet leaf spot, which causes numerous dead spots on the leaves, the spots
having a white center with a purple border. Leaves of infected plants may
curl, dry up and die. Spraying with Bordeaux (4550) when the spots first
appear and then again in about 10 days usually controls the disease. Crop
rotation will also help the situation. Many other fungi attack Beta
vulgaris: Actinomyces scabies, Alternaria tenuis, A. brassicicola, Aphanomyces
cochlioides, Cercospora beticola (most common disease of beets),
Clasterosporium putrefaciens, Cylindoocarpon radicicola, Fusarium spp.
(root-infecting and storage rot), Gloeosporium betae, Helicobasidium
purpureum, Heterosporium betae, Macrophomina phaseoli, Itycosphaerella
tabifica, Pellicularia filimentosa, Peronospora schachtii,P. farinosa, Phoma
betae, Phymatotrichum omnivorum, Physalospora rhodina, Phytophthora drechsleri,
P. cactorum, Puccinis aristidae, Ramularia beticola, R. betae, Rhizoctonia
aderholdii, R. solani, R. violacea, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Sclerotium
rolfsii, Septoria betae, Stemphylium botryosum, Streptomyces scabies, Uromyces
betae, Verticillium albo-atrum, V. lateritium, Volutella oxyspora. Several
viruses also attack beets, the most serious being Curly top virus. Other
viruses isolated from beets are: Argentine sunflower, Barley stripe mosaic,
Brazilian tobacco streak, Cabbage black ringspot, Carnation mottle, Celery
yellow vein, Cucumber mosaic and necrosis, Hydrangea ringspot, Lucern mosaic,
Pelargonium leaf curl, Potato boquet, Potato mop-top (X and Y), Raspberry
ringspot, Raspberry yellow dwarf, Red ringspot, Spoon leaf of red currant,
Tobacco mosaic, necrosis, ringspot and severe etch, Tomato aspermy, black ring
and spotted wilt, Yellow net, Yellows. The following bacteria are known to
infect beets: Bacterial soft rot, affects leaves and root, especially as a
market disease of bunched beets: Bacillus lacerans, B. mensentericus
bulgatus, B. mycoides, Bacterium busser, B. carotovora, B. scabiegenum, B.
tumefaciens, Cornyebacterium betae, Erwinia betivora, E. carotovora,
Pectobacterium carotovorum, Pseudomonas aptata, Xanthosomas beticola.
Physiological diseases are caused by: Heart rot or dry rot, boron deficiency;
Bronzing, potassium deficiency; Black heart, phosphorus deficiency; Chlorosis,
mineral deficiency and soil alkalinity. Among the insects the Beet flea-bettle
attacks the plants as soon as they are above ground. Larvae infesting
chickweed and pigweed and spreads from these weeds to beets. Eliminating these
weeds and spraying the beets with arsenate of lead as soon as the insect
appears and by repeated sprayings helps control it. Also the Beet leafhopper
(Circulifer tenellus), Army cutworm (Euxoa auxiliaris), Beet
webworm (Loxostege sticticalis), aphids, and leaf-miners attack garden
beets. Sugar beets are affected by the Sugarbeet wireworm (Limonius
californicus), Beet webworm, and Sugarbeet root maggot (Tetanops
myopaeformis). Being a root crop, beets and sugarbeets are attacked by
many nematodes: Aphelenchoides avenae, A. bicaudatus,A. parietinus,
Belonolaimus gracilis, Diplogaster Iheritieri, Ditylenchus destructor, D.
dipsaci, Eucephalobus elongatus, Helicotylenchus dihysteria, H. microlobus,
HeuLicycliophora conida, H. obtusa, H. similis, H. typica, Heterodera chachtii,
H. trifolii, Hexatylus viviparus, Longidorus elogatus, L. menthasolanus, L.
maximus, Meloidogyne arenaria, M. hapla, M. incognita, M. incognita acrita, M.
javanica, M. naasi, M. thamesii, Nacobbus aberrans, Paratylenchus projectus,
Pratylenchus neglectus, P. penetrans, P. pratensis, P. scribneri, P.
thornei,Rotylenclius robustus, Trichodorus christiei, T. primitivus, T. teres,
and Tropliurusminnesotensis (Golden, p.c. 1984).
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
- Boardman, N.K. 1980. Energy from the biological conversion of solar energy.
Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London A 295:477489.
- Culpepper, N. 1653. Culpepper's complete herbal. W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd.,
- Duke, J.A. and Atchley, A.A. 1984. Proximate analysis. In: Christie, B.R.
(ed.), The handbook of plant science in agriculture. CRC Press, Inc., Boca
- Hills, F.J., Johnson, S.S. , Geng, S., Abshahi, A., and Peterson, G.R. 1983.
Comparison of four crops for alcohol yield. Calif. Agr. 37(3/4):1719.
- List, P.H. and Horhammer, L. 19691979. Hager's handbuch der pharmazeutischen
praxis. vols 26. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
- McGill, S. 1981. Breeding better biomass crops. Furrow 86(5):38.
- Palz, W. and Chartier, P. (eds.). 1980. Energy from biomass in Europe. Applied
Science Publishers Ltd., London.
- Stewart, G.A., Gartside, G., Gifford, R.M., Nix, H.A., Rawlins, W.H.M., and
Siemon, J.R. 1979. The potential for liquid fuels from agriculture and forestry
in Australia. CSIRO. Alexander Bros., Mentone, Victoria, Australia.
- Swift-Hook, D.T. 1980. Discussion. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. London A 295. p. 489.
Last update December 30, 1997