Sugar beet crop — an alternate to cane
By Dr Ali Muhammad Khushk & Najma
THE availability of irrigation water is declining over the
last few years. Irrigation experts do not hope for much
improvement in the situation. They foresee a decreasing
supply as the time passes. The situation is alarming for
both the government and farmers as production of food and
cash crops would be adversely affected.
conditions can be mitigated by taking some steps such as the
construction of water storage reservoirs; use of underground
water where it is fit for crop cultivation; using measures
which could help increase the efficiency of available water
like sprinkler irrigation, laser levelling and furrow
irrigation; plugging of seepage and leakages; and judicious
use of water. The cropping pattern needs a change by
replacing high delta crops with those needing less
The two major high delta crops are sugarcane and rice. Due
to dwindling water supply, the government has decided to
replace these by low delta crops for which a campaign in
Sindh and the Punjab was carried out, more so in the former
province for replacing sugarcane area with beet.
Farmers responded by bringing about 1,200 acres under sugar
beet mainly in Badin District during 2001-02. They had a
good crop. But for the lack of marketing facilities, they
were left with no alternative but to plough in the crop or
use it as a feed for the livestock. They thus suffered
Sugar beet can be grown in lower Sindh where climate is more
favourable than in the Punjab, particularly in the last
stage of maturity. It can be grown on marginal and saline
lands. But a processing plant exclusively for sugar beet is
not economical. It is viable only if its processing is done
as a supplement to cane processing after the crushing is
The data of a sugar mill in the NWFP reveals that the cost
of sugar made from beet is dearer by about Rs4 per kg
because of the non-availability of bagasse. The cost can be
reduced if coal firing system is used. The local coal is
suitable for the purpose.
Sugar beet is a Rabi crop and therefore it impacts
production of wheat and oilseed crops as it competes with
these crops for land and water. It should be kept in mind
that wheat is a strategic crop and the country needs to keep
its production above domestic requirements.
It is problematic to replace cane with beet. In the NWFP,
where both are grown since long for the manufacture of
sugar, there has been in fact a decrease in the area of beet
Sugar beet is tropical and sub-tropical crop and can be
cultivated in different climatic conditions. The seed
germination requires 5-10 ºC. High temperatures are
preferred during vegetative growth. During day about 25 ºC
is required while in the night 20 ºC is suitable. It grows
best when soil moisture is between –40 and –60 centibars
(cb). Excessive irrigation should be avoided after planting
and prior to seed germination when soil temperatures are
lower than required for infection.
It is important to prepare soil thoroughly for getting fine
soil conditions. It is advised to deep ploughing of soil at
least 2-3 time, depth about 30-35cm and thereafter breaking
the clods completely through clod crusher and leveller.
Proper sowing time of sugar beet is one of the important
factors which affect the yield and quality of crop. It can
be sown from early October to the end of November. The
recommended seed rate for sugar beet is about 2kg/acre
(40,000 plants per acre).
Manuring of sugar beet is the most important factor which
not only affects the yield but also improves the quality.
Proper management is essential to produce better root yield
with maximum sugar content and juice purity.
Furrow irrigation is the most common method. The first
irrigation is done just after sowing. If the top of some
ridges where seed is placed do not receive moisture, a
second irrigation is applied a week later. Care is taken not
to destroy the ridges with excessive water during the first
irrigation of October. Third irrigation is required in
November. In the later part, 4-5 irrigation are needed with
fortnightly intervals. Irrigation water should not stand for
a long time in the field as it makes the root prone to
infestation by the number of diseases and may result in
The early planted crop inter-culturing and weeding can be
done until mid-January and for the late sown crop until
mid-February. The second dose of nitrogen is applied just
before inter-culturing by the end of January or early
February. Winter annual weeds are troublesome and can be
controlled only in a system that utilizes all available
tools and techniques.
Protection of the beet crop in the early stage of growth is
highly important. Growers normally plant the crop at low
plant density therefore greater risk is involved due to
insect attack. Field cricket, cutworm, aphids and jassids,
and army worm are the main pest insects.
Foliar, seedling, sclerotium root rot bacterial and viral
diseases mostly attack the plants for which crop rotation
and resistant seed varieties are recommended.
Courtesy: The Dawn