12 Oktober 2004

India: Ethanol production from sugarbeet

SUGARBEET (BETA vulgaris) is a biennial sugar producing tuber crop, grown in temperate countries. It is a promising alternative energy crop for the production of ethanol.

It has now emerged as a commercial field crop in Tamil Nadu because of favourable characteristics like shorter duration of 5 to 6 months, moderate water requirement of 80-100cm, higher sugar content of 12 to 15 per cent, improvement of soil conditioning because of tuber crop and suitability for saline and alkaline soil.

Variety and duration

The tropical sugar beet varieties are suitable for cultivation in Tamil Nadu. (Pasoda, H1 0064 and Doratea). The duration of these tropical varieties is 5 to 6 months depending on variety and climatic conditions prevailing during crop growth period.

Favourable season

Sugar beet is a cold weather crop (Rabi). Hence, sugarbeet is sown from October to November and harvested during April-May.

Deep ploughing followed by 2 to 3 ploughings to obtain a good soil tilth condition is necessary for favourable seed germination and tuber development.

Seeds and sowing

To maintain the required plant population of 40,000/acre, use 2 pockets designer seeds. One pocket contains 20,000 seeds weighing 600g. The recommended spacing is 50 x 20 cm. The designer seed is dipped at 2 cm depth on the top of the ridges at 20 cm apart at one seed per hole. The crops should be maintained weed free up to 75 days. Pendimethalin at 1.5 lit/acre can be dissolved in 300 litres of water and sprayed with hand-operated sprayer on 3rd day after sowing, followed by hand weeding on 25th and 50th day after sowing.


Water stagnation at all stages of the plant growth should be avoided. Irrigation should be based on soil type and climatic conditions. First irrigation is crucial for the early establishment of the crop.

For light textured sandy loam soil, irrigation once in 5-7 days and for heavy textured clay loam soil irrigation once in 8-10 days is recommended.

Light and frequent irrigation is recommended for maintaining optimum soil moisture. Irrigation may be stopped at least 2 to 3 weeks before harvest.

Pests and diseases

Major insect pests that affect the sugarbeet crop are aphids, tobacco caterpillar, and diamond backmoth. Integrated pest management programmes have to be adopted to control these insect pests.

To control aphids, spray neem oil at 3 per cent or dimethorate at 2ml/lit with teepol at 0.5 ml/lit, for tobacco caterpillar, spray endosulfon at 2 ml/lit or carbaryl at 2g/lit of water.

Major diseases that affect the crop are rhizoctonia wilt, powdery mildew, cercospora leaf spot, and fusarium yellow. To control rhizoctonia wilt, spot drench with bordeaux mixture at 1 per cent and for fusarium wilt, drench the soil with carbendazim at 1 per cent.

To control powdery mildew, spray of wettable powder at 0.3 per cent, and for cercospora leaf spot, apply mancozeb at 0.25 per cent on 10-14 days schedule.

Source: The Hindu Oct 07, 2004.

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