Sugar beet is an industrial crop. In many regions, significant areas have been allocated for this crop, and a technology has been developed for the cultivation of sugar beet and its further processing.
We will try to understand the characteristics of sugar beet as an agricultural crop and the peculiarities of its cultivation, we will learn how sugar production from beets developed in European countries.
- The history of the emergence of sugar production in Europe from sugar beets
- Botanical description of sugar beet, its varieties and hybrids
- Basic agricultural techniques for growing sugar beets
The history of the emergence of sugar production in Europe from sugar beets
Until the middle of the eighteenth century, sugar beet as a species did not yet exist. This technical subspecies owes its appearance to the German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf. The scientist became interested in the sugar crystals seen under the microscope on the beet root cut, which gave impetus to the breeders to obtain a plant subspecies with an increased sucrose content.
If in the tubers of the fodder beet of the middle of the 18th century, no more than 2% sugar was contained, then in modern varieties its content already reaches 20%. Marggraf's work was continued by his student Franz Karl Ahard. It was this man who was the founder of the production process of obtaining sugar from sugar beets and stood at the origins of the entire sugar industry in Europe.
His first plant was already in operation in 1801. It was at this plant that the training of specialists for the production of sugar took place. Thus, beet sugar appeared on the world market as a competitor to sugar cane sugar, which was originally imported from India. Later they learned to grow it in Egypt, Sicily, Spain. From there, Columbus brought the culture to America.
Reed began to be grown on the islands of the Caribbean and Central America. Until the beginning of the 19th century and the development of sugar production from beets, this product was obtained only from cane and it remained a luxury item in Europe, and was available mainly only to noble and wealthy families. Let's try to figure out why exactly this beet became the raw material for sugar production.
Botanical description of sugar beet, its varieties and hybrids
Sugar beet is a subspecies of common beet from the genus Beet of the Marev family, although recently it has been attributed to the Amaranth family. The life form is a biennial herb. In the first year after sowing, the plant forms a rosette of basal leaves.
By the end of the growing season, a fairly large root crop is formed. It is at this stage that it is dug up and sent either for processing to sugar factories or for feed to farm animals. The average weight of sugar beet roots is about 0.6 kg - 0.8 kg. In the second year, a tall, straight stem with small leaves appears from the fleshy root.
It contains inconspicuous flowers, collected in the inflorescences of ears. The fruit is one-seeded, due to the intergrowth of flowers in the inflorescences, inflorescences are formed, the number of seeds in which is from 2 to 6. Sugar beet has varieties with a single arrangement of fruits. When technical maturity is reached, sugar beet roots contain the following substances:
- water up to 75%
- sucrose up to 17.5%
- fiber up to 1.2%
- pectin up to 2.3%
- cellulose up to 1.1%
- ash up to 0.3%
The cultivation of sugar beet in the video:
However, it should be noted that the sucrose content depends directly on the variety and growing conditions. The most "sweet" varieties and hybrids of sugar beets include the following:
- Eureka, a hybrid of Belgian selection, sugar content from 16.4 to 19%, average weight of root vegetables 0.62 kg
- Zawisha, a hybrid of Polish selection, sucrose content 18.0%, average root weight 0.77 kg
- Mississippi, hybrid of selection of the USA, sucrose content from 16.8 to 21%, weight of root vegetables 0.810 kg
- Ramonskaya single-seeded 47, domestic variety, sucrose content 18.6%
- Kuban MC 81, hybrid of domestic selection, single-seeded, sucrose content 16.5%, disease resistant
It should be said that foreign hybrids have good characteristics, but taking into account the political moment and the economic situation, the cost of imported seeds has increased. In addition, in order for the varietal characteristics to be fully manifested, it is necessary to create almost ideal conditions for growing foreign-bred sugar beet hybrids. Therefore, it is more expedient to rely on domestic varieties with an accumulation of sucrose by the time of harvesting at least 16.5%.
Basic agricultural techniques for growing sugar beets
For the successful cultivation of sugar beets, it is important to comply with the following conditions:
The best soil for this culture is fertile black soil or well-fertilized soil. Plowing or digging of the soil is carried out only in the fall, with the simultaneous introduction of organic and mineral fertilizers. With manual digging, the digging depth is about 25 - 30 cm. The optimal predecessors for sugar beets are cereals or legumes. In addition, the autumn preparation of the soil allows you to maximize moisture conservation.
With the onset of spring, after the ground has thawed, it is necessary to harrow to a depth of 7 - 8 cm and further cultivation just before sowing the beets. When manually processing the beds, these works are carried out either with the help of a motor-cultivator, or with a simple rake.
When sowing, seeds are planted to a depth of 3 cm. The soil temperature at this depth should not be lower than +6 degrees. The distance between the plants is 3-4 cm, the minimum width between the rows is 40 - 45 cm. With mechanical sowing, these distances can be larger to ensure further maintenance by mechanical methods.
With favorable humidity and temperatures not lower than +10 +12 degrees, seed germination occurs on the 8th-9th day. If, during the first days after sowing, a crust has formed on the soil, then about 5 - 6 days after the seeds have been sown, the soil is gently loosened. If the beets have sprouted too densely, then after the appearance of the first pair of true leaves, the soil is loosened again with the simultaneous thinning of the seedlings.
It may be necessary to thin out the beets several times until the distance between neighboring plants is from 18 to 30 cm.
In the industrial production of beets, such thinning is called bunching, it occurs when a technique with special attachments equipped with razors processes crops by cutting off excess seedlings. When growing a small amount of beets, you can try to gently remove the excess seedlings from the ground and plant them in a new place.
Further care for sugar beets is to remove weeds with simultaneous loosening and watering. Water the beets in dry season once every 6 to 7 days with plenty of water. Harvesting begins depending on the ripening period of the sugar beet. Early varieties are ready for harvest by early September. Subject to the basic techniques of agricultural technology, the yield of sugar beets will correspond to the declared varietal yield.