Sugarbeets 101

By N. Merkel 10/7/2009

Our first 2009 harvest report comes from Colorado and focuses on sugarbeets. But what is there to know about sugarbeets?

The first thing that might come to mind when someone mentions sugarbeets is the can of red beets you might find at the grocery store or the red sliced beet in the salad bar at restaurants. It’s often not common knowledge there is more than one type of beet. Even though sugarbeets are grown on over 1.3 million acres in the US and Canada and provide more than half of the sugar produced in the US, it is a relatively mysterious crop, especially for the consumer.

Did you know?

  • Sugar is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Of all known plants, sugar is most highly concentrated in sugarbeets and sugar cane. The sucrose (sugar) from sugarbeets and sugar cane is identical, and the same as the sucrose found in fruits and vegetables.

  • Sugar beets are grown commercially throughout the world in cooler, temperate climates. The main producers around the world are the European Union, the US, the Russian Federation, Turkey, Ukraine, Iran, Japan and China. In the US, sugarbeets are grown in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

  • The sugar is the same no matter its original plant source or growing practice. Sugar – whether from sugarbeets or sugar cane, or from sugar crops grown using conventional, biotech or organic methods – is pure and natural and has the same nutritional value, composition and wholesomeness.

  • Regulatory agencies around the world have reviewed Roundup Ready® sugarbeets and confirmed the sugarbeets and end-products derived from those sugarbeets are the same as the food and feed products derived from today’s conventional sugarbeets.

  • Because sugar is an important ingredient in the North American food supply, it is vital to have a sustainable and geographically diverse supply of sugar and sugar byproducts to support the North American food industry for consumers. In North America, hurricanes, droughts, floods, frosts and other environmental events have historically challenged the dependable supply of sugar products.

  • Also, biotechnology-enhanced sugarbeets, like other biotech crops, lessen the impacts on the environment. The Roundup Ready® system in sugarbeets requires fewer herbicide applications to effectively control weeds. Fewer tractor trips across the field mean reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced soil erosion, reduced soil compaction and enhanced water conservation.

For more information please visit SIBC.