Sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris) growing for sucrose production became successful in the United States starting about 1870. Earlier attempts at sugarbeet production were not totally successful. Once a viable industry was established, sugarbeets were grown in 26 states. About 1,400,000 acres were produced in 14 states in 1990. Minnesota and North Dakota produced about 550,000 acres. Other leading sugarbeet states are Idaho, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Texas. Canada produces sugarbeets in Manitoba and Alberta. Russia leads worldwide production of sugarbeets with nearly 8,500,000 acres followed by Poland, France, West Germany and Turkey with about 1,000,000 acres each. The United States beet sugar industry has experienced great change in the last three decades. A total of 10 beet processors operated 53 factories in 18 states in 1973 while nine companies operated only 36 factories in the United States in 1990.
Sucrose from sugarbeets is the principal use for sugarbeets in the United States. Sugarbeets contain from 13 to 22% sucrose. Sucrose is used widely as a pure high energy food or food additive. High fiber dietary food additives are manufactured from sugarbeet pulp and major food processors in the United States have used these dietary supplements in recently introduced new products including breakfast cereals.
Sugarbeet pulp and molasses are processing by-products widely used as feed supplements for livestock. These products provide required fiber in rations and increase the palatability of feeds. Sugarbeet tops also can be used for livestock feed. Sheep and cattle ranchers allow grazing of beet fields in the fall to utilize tops. Cattle and sheep also will eat small beets left in the field after harvest but producers grazing livestock in harvested fields should be aware of the risk of livestock choking on small beets.
Beet tops (leaves and petioles) also can be used as silage. Sugarbeets that produce 20 tons/acre of roots also produce a total of about 5 tons/acre of TDN per acre in the tops. Tops are an excellent source of protein, vitamin A, and carbohydrates but are slightly inferior to alfalfa haylage or corn silage for beef cattle. Tops are equal to alfalfa haylage or corn silage for sheep. Beet top silage is best fed in combination with other feeds. Tops should be windrowed in the field and allowed to wilt to 60-65% moisture before ensiling. See Morrisons Feeds and Feeding Handbook for a detailed description of the nutrient content of sugarbeet tops and roots.
Molasses by-products from sugarbeet processing are used widely in the alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and bakers yeast industries. Waste lime from the processing of sugarbeets is an excellent soil amendment to increase soil pH levels. Waste lime is a good source of P & K plant nutrients. Treated processing waste water also may be used for irrigation.