Beetroot Cultivation Guide

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About the Crop

###Crop Name

###Common names
Beetroot, Table beets, Garden or Common Beet

###Scientific Name
Beta vulgaris

###Name in Indian languages
Beetroot (English), Beet (Tamil), Beetroot (Malayalam), Beetroot (Telugu), Beetroot (Kannada), Chukander (Hindi), Beetroot (Konkani), Biitt (Marathi)

###Origin, Distribution and Uses
The Beetroot is very well grown in Asia Minor and Europe. Beetroot was used as a food crop although they were grown and used earlier for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago. Beetroot is a very good laxative, a very good cure for bad breath, a very good medicine for coughs and headaches and even as an aphrodisiac. Beetroot is grown extensively in Germany and France and grown in all other European countries. Beetroot is used in salads in Africa, Asia, and South America now a days.

Area, Production and Productivity

Beetroot production varies from 25 to 30 t/ha and the best way to store Beetroots is to store them at 0°C.

###Cultivation Requirements
Beetroot grows well in cool climatic conditions and can be grown well year long if the temperatures are low . Beetroot crop grown in cool weather produce very good quality roots (with high sugar content and dark internal colour). The plant growth gets affected if cold conditions continue for a long time. Beetroot crop can tolerate very low temperatures at all growth stages to a certain extent.

###Climate and Seasons
Beetroot grows well in cool temperatures and it cant tolerate extreme cool some temperatures. The best season for Beetroot is spring and autumn, but grows well in summer and in winter. Excessive hot weather is not so good for the Beetroot as it causes the appearance of alternating light and dark red concentric circles in the root known as zoning. Very cold weather results in slow or no growth of the plant. Prolonged periods of low temperatures is not good for the crop as this can induce bolting. Beetroot seeds germinate at soil temperatures from 4.5 to 30°C, with the optimum being 18 to 24°C

Beetroot grows well on deep and well-drained, loose, loamy to sandy soils. Heavy clay soils may cause hindrance for the plant growth and the shape of the Beetroot can also be affected. Beetroot grows well in a soil pH of 5.8 to 7.0, but can also grow well in soils with a pH of up to 7.6. Acid soils are not good for Beetroot growth as they may create nutrient deficiency problems and so care should be taken that the pH levels are not high in the soil for Beetroot crop. Beetroots which are mature are fairly tolerant to salinity in the soil, seedlings are relatively sensitive to the salinity in the soils.

###F1 Hybrids

1. Detroit Dark Red

The variety of Detroit Dark Red produces Beetroots which are perfectly round and have smooth uniform deep red skin. This variety produces Beetroot with flesh that is dark blood red in colour and with light red zoning. This variety gives a heavy yielding with a duration of 80-100 days.

2. Crimson Globe

This variety produces round to flat round Beetroots. This variety has a outer skin which is medium red and flesh is crimson red without zonations. The duration is 55-60 days for the yield.

3. Early Wonder

This variety produces Beetroots which are flat globular in shape with dark red skin and dark red flesh and light red zoning.

4. Ooty-1

This variety has round roots with blood red flesh colour. The yield is 28 t/ha in 120 days. This variety sets seeds under Nilgiris conditions.

5. Crosby Egyptian

This variety produces Beetroots which are like flat globe in shape with dark purplish red flesh. The duration for yielding is 55-60 days. This variety produces Beetroots with white zoning under warm weather.

Madhur, Ruby Queen and Ruby Red are some of the varieties which are produces by private seed companies.

Crop Management

###Field Preparation and Seed Requirements
Beetroot being a cool season crop, it is raised during winter in plains and as a spring summer crop in hills by March-April. To grow Beetroots in plains the seeds should be sown during the moths of September-November. For preparing the land for Beetroot cultivation, land is ploughed to a fine tilth by thorough ploughing to make it loose. Removing clods is a very important part of land preparation. The application of well decomposed farmyard manure should be done at the time of final ploughing. The preparation of flat beds or ridges and furrows is an important part of land preparation. The seeds should be soaked in water and then 2-6 seeds should be placed in pits which are drilled 2.5 cm deep in rows at spacing of 45-60 x 8-10 cm. 5-6 kg of seeds is required for one hectare of land . Sowing of seeds at 1-2 weeks interval ensures in steady supply of Beetroots during the season.

Beetroot is propagated by seeds.

##Sowing, Nursery and Transplanting
The seedbed for Beetroot cultivation should be well prepared by ploughing the land upto 15 to 20 cm deep to break up clods. Another important point to be considered during Beetroot cultivation is that the soil should also be as level as possible. The soil should have a good crumb structure and enough moisture should be present in the soil, and the soil should be free of rotten plant material. The sowing times for Beetroot seeds differ with production areas. In winter and where there is rainfall, seeds can be sown from August to end of March. In areas with cool summers the best time to sow the seeds would be from end of August to middle of March.

###Seed Treatment and Sowing
Beetroot seeds should be treated before sowing to improve germination. Germination of Beetroot seeds is affected by the high nitrate content of the dry seeds and is also suppressed by the ammonia formed by the bacteria. So it is better to wash the Beetroot seeds to be planted in running water for at least 2 hours. The seeds should be soaked in a 0.5 % Aretan solution for 20 minutes after washing and dried for at least 6 hours at room temperature before sowing.

###Transplanting and Spacing
In Beetroot cultivation, temperatures of 4.4 to 7.7°C for 6-8 weeks is required for flowers to initiate. The usual method of seed production root to seed method. In this method, seeds are sown in July and the Beetroots are dug out during November-December after they are well formed. The Beetroots after taken from the ground, the tops are trimmed without injuring crown. Then these Beetroots which are selected plants are transplanted at a spacing of 60 x 45-60 cm in well prepared fields and irrigated. The harvesting is done during June-July. Cross pollination is due to self incompatibility. Beetroot being a cross pollinated crop, that too wind pollinated, it is better to provide an isolation distance of 1000 m for certified seed production and 1600 m for breeder and nucleus seed production. The Beetroot average seed yield is 2.0 t/ha.

The reason that most Beetroot seeds are multi-germ, precision seeders need not be used. Recent studies have shown that even with precision planters, the Beetroot grown in this method appear more uniform in shape compared with conventional row plantings. The usual depth for Beetroot seeds to be sown in slit trenches is 2cm deep. Planting in rows will help in the management of weed growth . For Beetroot cultivation, row spacing should be between 5 and 10cm depending on the size requirement needed at harvest.

###Cropping Patterns
Intercropping of Beetroot can be done with other crops like lettuce, cabbage etc. which is profitable.

###Water Management
All the vegetable crops require good irrigation conditions to have a good produce. It is important for Beetroot crop to have the soil moist until the plants emerge. The cases of very hot weather can be managed by applying a layer of mulch to prevent the soil drying out too rapidly. As Beetroot has shallow roots, with an effective depth of 300mm, it is very important to water the plants regularly and frequently. An average amount of 300-350 mm of water is required throughout the growth period which is an average of 4mm per day. The water requirement of the Beetroot crop depends on the variety, soil type and the size of the plants.

###Nutrient Management
To reduce the acidity in the soil a basal application of a 5:6:4 NPK mixture at the rate of 900-1000 kg/ha (or equivalent rates of a high analysis fertiliser) is required to neutralise the soil. If the soil is light, this rate may be increased to 1250 kg/ha. Fertiliser may be broadcast and cultivated in, or drilled below, the seed at or before planting.

To neutralise the soil, Nitrogen in the form of urea at 100 kg/ha or Nitram at 135 kg/ha can be applied when beetroot are 10 cm tall should be applied to increase the productivity. Good quality Beetroots are produced if they take less time to grow. Any delay in the growth process produces tough, woody roots with uneven colour and poor flavour.

The reason for corky areas on root surfaces is the deficiency of Boron, internal black discolouration, reddening foliage and possible multiple topping. These conditions can be prevented by application 3-4 foliar boron sprays (Solubor at 200-250 g/100 L water plus a wetting agent) at two-week intervals, and repeating the application when plants are 5-8 cm tall. An application of Solubor at 5-7.5 kg/ha may be an alternative when a soil analysis or previous experience has shown that a deficiency exists. This can be applied to the soil using a boom spray (at the high rate for clay soils and the lower rate for lighter soils).

Molybdenum deficiency (causing lack of vigour, leaf yellowing and death of leaf margins) may be prevented by one or more foliar sprays of sodium molybdate at 60 g/100 L water in the early growth stages.

###Weed Management
Weeds are very bad for the production or yield of Beetroot. They take all the nutrients from the soil, they take the light, water particularly during the early part of the season. They can reduce yield if left unchecked. This can be avoided by regular cultivating. This prevents weeds competing with beetroot. Weed-killers or herbicides can be used in larger-scale and commercial plantings. It is better to eliminate perennial weeds should be eliminated prior to planting the crop.

###Pests and Management

  • Aphids (Aphis fabae)
    These pests called Aphids are dark brown or green insects about 2 mm in length. These pests spoil the crop by sucking on the lower surface of the leaves and a havey damage is done when the number of insects are more. The infested leaves are curly and rolled.
    Control measures:
    The beat control measure is to use registered chemicals for the elimination of these pests. Crop rotation is also a very good control measure.
  • Red spider (Tetranychus cinnabarinus)
    These pests look like small dark red or dark brown spiders about 1 mm long. They spoil the crop by sucking on the lower surface of the leaves. Their numbers will normally be low but their number increase very much during warm weather.
  • Leaf-eating insects
    These pests spoil the crop by eating the leaves in the summer.

###Diseases and Management

  • Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola)
    This disease is a common disease caused in Beetroots which is caused by a fungus that enters the leaves and causes small round spots of about 3 mm in diameter. The worst part is these spots are also found on the flowers and seed on plants grown for seed production. These spots are at first brown with a dark purple border and later turn grey in the
    center. The disease spread by the tissue in the centre falls as the spots age.
    Control Measures:
    The best control measures is Crop rotation, treating the crop with registered chemicals, by avoiding over watering.
  • Downy mildew (Peronospora schachtii)
    This disease is seed-borne and the problem with this it can affect the crop early in the season. Leaves of infected plants partly or completely turn yellow and curl downwards.
    The diseased patches later turn brown. A grey fungal growth can be seen on the underside of the leaves. Flowers and the crown can also be infected.
  • Brown rust (Uromyces betae)
    Infected plants are recognised by large numbers of orange or red-brown pustules on the leaves.
    Control Measures:
    Control measures are not necessary y since the disease seldom causes any damage.
  • Brown Rust (Uromyces betae)
    Infected plants are recognised by large numbers of orange or red-brown pustules on the leaves.
    Control Measures:
    Control measures are not necessary since the disease seldom causes any damage.
  • Scab (Actinomyces scabies)
    The beetroots infected with scab develop rough, irregular, surface scabs. The disease is prevalent in soils containing too much lime.
    Control Measures:
    • Soil analysis to determine level of lime and get advice on that.
  • Root rot, damping-off (Phoma betae)
    This disease is very common in soils which are compact. The diseased plants suffer as the germination of infected plants is weak. Young seedlings grow poorly, turn yellow, wllt, topple over and die and the roots turn black. Seedlings that are not severely affected produce small, malformed beetroots.
    Control Measures:
    The best control measures are to sow the seeds in soils with a good structure, treating the seeds with Thiram, practising crop rotation, to avoid boron deficiency, planting the crop at the right time and not to deep.
  • Heart rot
    This disease is caused by boron deficiency. This disease can be recognised by black marks on the root surface and cracks. Black blotches are visible in the flesh if the beetroot is cut open.
    Control Measures:
    The best control measure is in choosing the best cultivars.

Organic Cultivation

Organic cultivation of Beetroot can be done with natural dried leaves as fertilizers and its easy to have organic cultivation at home or nurseries.

Harvesting and Yield

There is a great demand for medium sized Beetroots and the good time for harvesting is after they attain a diameter of 3-5 cm. Harvesting is done 8-10 weeks after sowing by pulling the top with hand. Later the leaves are removed, graded and marketed. In European countries, where small sized bunches are in demand, Beetroots are tied in bundles of 4-6 with their tops. Over matured and oversized Beetroots become woody and crack. Yield varies from 25 to 30t/ha and the tuber stores well at 0°C and 90% RH.


Harvesting of Beetroots usually starts when the beetroots are between 3 cm to 5 cm in diameter. The first harvest is merely a “thinning out”. Most beetroots are lifted when they are 5 cm to 7.5 cm in diameter.The crop is lifted by hand, cleaned of dead leaves, washed and bunched with 3 to 6 beetroots to a bunch, which is then ready to be marketed. An alternative is to cut off leaves and pack the beetroot in pockets. Often, where beetroot is grown on a large scale, the leaves are cut off mechanically and crates or cartons are used for packing and marketing the beetroot.

Post Harvest Technology

  • Sorting and grading: All diseased Beetroots and which are damaged are removed during sorting. The dried leaves should be removed if they are to be marketed with tops. Beetroot is then graded according to size.

  • Packing: Before packing the Beetroot they should be sorted and washed, the Beetroots are then packed in crates or cartons and kept in a cool and dry environment. Beetroot is sometimes packed in pockets.

  • Storage: The priority should be that the environment must be dry to avoid fungal attack, and care should be taken that the temperature must be kept at 0°C and the relative humidity at 90%.

  • Transport: Beetroots should be transported in a well ventilated vehicle and at cool temperatures to avoid fungal infestation. Care should be taken that the temperatures should never go below 0 °C because the crop will experience cold-wilting.

Reserved for additional information