Beets, Beta vulgaris
, are herbacious biennial root vegetables in the family Chenopodiaceae grown for their edible root. The plant is usually erect with a long main root and a rosette of leaves growing on stems. The leaves are oval in shape, arranged alternately on the stem and grow 20–40 cm (7.9–15.7 in) in length. The roots are usually red in color. The plant produces sessile green flowers and can reach 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft) in height. Beets are usually grown as annual plants, harvested after one growing season. Beets may also be referred to as beetroot, garden beet or spinach beet and originated from the Mediterranean.
The roots are consumed after boiling and may be pickled in vinegar. The leaves of the spinach beet plant are consumed as a herb in Indonesia and Japan. Chemicals in the roots can be extracted and used as food coloring.
Beets are cool season vegetables with a long growing season. They grow best in cool climates but can tolerate some heat as well as some freezing. The optimum temperature for their growth is between 15.5 and 18.3°C (60–65°F). Beets grow best in a loose, well draining soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8 and should be planted in full sun for optimum development.
Beets are direct seeded and can be planted as soon as the soil is workable in Spring. The soil should be prepared for planting by first removing any large rocks and stones and then working in 2–3 inches of compost or well-rotted manure. Plant one seed every 2.5 cm (1 in) at a depth of 13 mm (0.5 in) in rows spaced 30–40 cm (12–16 in) apart. Keep the seedbed well watered. Seedlings should emerge in 5 to 17 days at temperatures between 10 and 24°C (50–75°F). When seedlings have reached between 7 and 10 cm (3–4 in) in height, thin to a final spacing of 7–10 cm (3–4 in) between plants. For a continuous harvest, plant seeds every 2–3 weeks as long as the daytime temperature stays below 26.6°C (80°F). Most beet varieties mature in 55 to 70 days.
General care and maintenance
Beets require plenty of moisture to develop optimally. Even watering will promote the development of good quality roots and prevent the formation of rings in the root. Soil moisture can be conserved by applying a layer of mulch around the plants. In addition to moisture, beets also require an adequate supply of nutrients, particularly phosphorus. Apply a complete fertilizer at planting to ensure optimum development. Remove any weeds around plants by cultivating shallowly to avoid damaging the developing roots.
Young beet greens can be harvested for salads when they are 2.5–5.0 cm (1–2 in) high and older greens before they reach 15 cm (6 in) in length. The roots are ready for harvest when they have reached 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter and are most tender before the exceed 7.5–10 cm (3–4 in). Watering the soil the day before harvest or the day after rainfall makes pulling the beets easier. Pull beets out of the soil by firmly grasping the top and pulling the root out of the soil vertically. Alternatively, use a garden fork to dig the beets out of the soil. Cut the tops of the beets to 1.25–2.5 cm (0.5–1.0 in) above the root before storing the root. This helps keep the beets fresh.
Harvest beet greens before they reach 6 inches in length
Beets are most tender when they are 1–2 inches in diameter
CABI Crop Protection Compendium. (2010). Beta vulgaris datasheet. Available at: http://www.cabi.org/cpc/datasheet/8778. [Accessed 06 November 14]. Paid subscription required
Harveson, R. M., Hanson, L. E. & Hein, G. L. (2009). Compendium of Beet Diseases and Pests. Available at: http://www.apsnet.org/apsstore/shopapspress/Pages/43658.aspx. Available for purchase from APS Press
Schrader, W. L. & Mayberry, K. S. (2003). Beet and Swiss Chard Production in California. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Available at: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8096.pdf. [Accessed 06 November 14]. Free to access
Common Pests and Diseases
Category : Bacterial
Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata
Symptoms on lower surface
Bacterial blight symptoms
Lower surface of infected leaf
Signs of bacterial leaf spot (Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata) on a beet leaf.
Infected beet leaf
The infected leaves show irregular to circular shaped spots with tan to dark brown centers and dark black borders. In some instance symptoms also appear on the edges of the leaves which initially may appear water-soaked and later turn yellow and then necrotic. These spots may join together between the veins an the dried area falls off, which gives a ragged appearance.
Use healthy and disease free seeds.
Small round spots on roots that enlarge, turn brown and rupture the epidermis; raised corky spots on root surface that are gray, white or tan in color.
Do not plant in soil know to be infected; avoid crop rotation with potato.
Category : Viral
Beet curly top disease
Beet curly top virus (BCTV)
Beet severe curly top virus (BSCTV)
Beet mild curly top virus (BMCTV)
The beet leafhopper, vector of beet curly top geminivirus.
Sugar beet varieties show different degree of susceptibility to Beet curly top disease.
Left plant tolerant, right plant highly susceptible to Beet curly top virus
left: healthy beet leave, right: beet leave showing symptoms of curly top
Beet leafhopper adult
Beet curly top virus infected plant showing characteristic inrolling of the leaf margins.
Plant infected with Beet curly top virus showing foliar chlorosis and curling of leaves
Foliar chlorosis caused by the infection with Beet curly top virus
Beet curly top virus infected plant
left two rows: variety tolerant to Beet curly top virus, right two rows: variety highly susceptible to Beet curly top virus
The infected leaves become a dwarf, crinkle and rolled upward and inward. The veins become irregularly swollen on the lower surface. The diseased beet shows discoloration of the vascular tissue. The young roots become dwarfed and rootlets are twisted and distorted. The death of rootlets leads to growth of new rootlets which gives the hairy root appearance.
Grow available resistant varieties. Keep the field free from overwintered weeds. Spray suitable insecticide to control leafhoppers.
Beet western yellows virus
Beet Western Yellows Virus (BWYV)
Close-up of sugar beet leaf showing typical symptoms
Close-up of infected field
Sugar beet leaf showing typical symptoms of BWYV.
Field of sugar beets showing typical foliar symptoms (chlorosis) caused by BWYV
Close-up of sugar beet leaf showing typical symptoms of BWYV.
The symptoms first start on older leaves as yellowing between the veins with possible small reddish brown spots which gives a distinct bronze cast on infected leaves. Later the leaves become thick, leathery, and brittle.
Grow available resistant varieties. Keep the fields free from the previous season crop in the off season. Control aphids.
Category : Fungal
Cercospora leaf spot
Drying of leaves due to cercospora leaf spot disease
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms
Severely infected plant
Cercospora leaf spot infection
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms
Cercospora leaf spot symptoms on sugar beet
Brown to gray flecks or spots surrounded by red-purple halos on leaves; yellow or brown necrotic leaves.
Rotate crops every 2-3 years; apply a fungicide at first sign of disease; plow crop debris into soil immediately after harvest.
Infected sugar beet seedlings
Aphanomyces seedlings damping-off
Constriction of stem near soil line due damping off disease
Sugar beet seedling infected with damping off disease
Beet seedling showing damping off symptom
Damping off symptoms
Symptoms of damping-off on young beet plant
Seedlings collapsing; blackened roots; constriction of plant crown.
Treat seeds with fungicide prior to planting; plant in well draining soil; do not plant until soil is sufficiently warm.
Spinach leaf showing angular chlorotic lesions caused by the pathogen Peronospora farinosa.
Sporulation on lower surface of leaf
Underside of spinach leaf showing sporulation of the pathogen (Peronospora farinosa)
Dense mat of sporangiophores
Plant leaves appear lighter green; small, puckered, thickened leaves; fuzzy gray growth on both leaf surfaces.
Grow available resistant varieties. Remove and destroy the infected crop debris.
Fusarium yellows and root rot
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. betae
Sugar beet field showing symptoms of infection with Fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. betae).
Symptoms of Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. betae
Typically only one side of the leaves is affected and appear scorched.
Leaves become dry, brittle and remain clustered around the crown
Wilting of plant
Sugar beet (common beet) plants showing symptoms of Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. betae
The infected leaves exhibit yellowing between the larger veins. Later entire leaves become dry, brittle and remain clustered around the crown. Typically only one side of the leaves is affected and appear scorched. The vascular tissues of infected plants become discolored. Plant appear wilted during day time and recover at night. The tip of taproot becomes black due to rotting.
Plant resistant varieties. Crop rotation with non host crop. Keep field free from weeds.
Varietal differences in powdery mildew tolerance on sugarbeet
Heavy infection with powdery mildew
Powdery mildew symptoms on upper surface of leaf
Close-up of cleistothecia of powdery mildew
Stems are also affected by powdery mildew
Sugar beet infected with powdery mildew under greenhouse conditions
Underside of leaf showing powdery mildew of sugar beet
close-up of mycelium patch of powdery mildew
Sugar beet leaf showing powdery mildew symptom. Note the chlorosis associated with the disease.
Upper surface covered with white mycelial mat due to powdery mildew disease
Cleistothecia of powdery mildew
Small, scattered, circular, white mycelium mats on lower surface of leaf
Initially the symptom appears on older leaves as small, scattered, circular, white mycelium mats on lower surface. Later all the leaves of the plant infected and appear dusty white on both surfaces. If the disease is severe the leaves become yellow and then turn purplish-brown.
Grow available resistant varieties. If the disease is severe, spray suitable fungicide.
Category : Nematodes
Beet cyst nematode
Sugarbeet field showing damage caused by the beet cyst nematode
Healthy (left) and cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii) infected roots (right) of sugar beet
Beet plants infested with beet cyst nematode
Beet cyst (white dot in center of frame) on small roots of sugar beet plant
Formation of cyst on beet roots
Root of sugarbeet infected with beet cyst nematode
Beet roots showing cyst due to beet cyst nematode infestation.
The symptoms may vary depend on the stage of the crop infected by the nematode. The infected seedling exhibit stunting and reduced leaf growth. Also the older leaves of seedlings will become yellow and wilted during the hot period of the day. Below ground, the roots appear stunted with lots of secondary roots. Also the infected roots show yellow-brown cysts. If the nematodes infect the older plants the symptoms are not much noticeable.
Keep the field free from weeds. Follow crop rotation. Deep summer plowing helps in exposing cyst in the soil to sunlight. Grow available resistant varieties.
Root knot nematode
Root knot nematode symptoms
Galled roots of beat
Galled roots of beet caused by root knot nematode
Galls on roots which can be up to 3.3 cm (1 in) in diameter but are usually smaller; reduction in plant vigor; yellowing plants which wilt in hot weather.
Plant resistant varieties if nematodes are known to be present in the soil; check roots of plants mid-season or sooner if symptoms indicate nematodes; solarizing soil can reduce nematode populations in the soil and levels of inoculum of many other pathogens.
Category : Insects
Darkling beetle (Rove beetle)
Drakling beetle adult
Darkling beetle (Blapstinus interruptus) adult
Feeding damage on stems; death of seedlings; seeds dug up; insect is a dull blue-black or brown beetle about 0.6 cm (0.52 in) long; tips of antennae are often enlarged, resembling a club.
Ditches filled with water can prevent spread of beetle to/from adjacent fields; remove all weeds from garden borders; if beetle is problematic then appropriate insecticides can provide control; insecticides are usually in the form of baits.
Leafminer damage on Beets.
Damage due to leafminer
Thin, white, winding trails on leaves; heavy mining can result in white blotches on leaves and leaves dropping from the plant prematurely; early infestation can cause fruit yield to be reduced; adult leafminer is a small black and yellow fly which lays its eggs in the leaf; larave hatch and feed on leaf interior.
Check transplants for signs of leafminer damage prior to planting; remove plants from soil immediately after harvest; only use insecticides when leafminer damage has been identified as unnecessary spraying will also reduce populations of their natural enemies.