116,000 hectares of sugar beet were grown in the UK in 2014. Average yield is about 55 tonnes per hectare. It provides a valuable break crop returning organic matter to the soil and preventing the build-up of disease and is commonly grown in conjunction with wheat, barley or pulses. The root of the beet has a sugar content of around 17% and in the UK provides over half of the sugar we use. Beet has been grown for food and fodder since ancient times. However, it was not until 1747 that Andreas Marggraf, a German chemist, succeeded in extracting sugar from beet in a form which could be used in cooking.

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