Sugarbeets are an important part of American agriculture.  The sugarbeet, Beta vulgaris has been grown for U.S. sugar production since the 1870s.  Sugar derived from sugarbeet is responsible for around 55% of U.S. Sugar production.

Sugarbeet harvester


Montana planted approximately 44,700 acres of sugarbeet in 2015.  In 2014, 1,434,000 tons of sugarbeet were produced with an average sugar content of 17.87%.  The value of sugarbeet production was $82,430,000 in 2012, and $49,250,000 in 2013.  That is an average of $1475.50 an acre!


The root of the sugarbeet is white and fleshy, conical in shape and possesses a flat crown.  Sugar is formed during photosynthesis and stored in the root.  Each root contains approximately 75% water, 20% sugar and 5% pulp.  Very little goes to waste, as pulp and molasses become feed for livestock.  Average sugar contents range from 12%-22%. 


Sugarbeet is the most quickly adopted genetically-modified (GM) crop to date.  Herbicide-resistant sugarbeets accounted for nearly 95% of the U.S. acres by 2011.  The sugarbeet is completely processed when making sugar, therefore, no DNA, GM or natural remains in the final product.


Two main sugar processing factories exist in Montana.  Sidney Sugars, owned by American Crystal Sugar Company is located in Sidney, Montana.  Western Sugar Cooperative has a manufacturing facility in Billings, MT.  Both Western Sugar and American Crystal are examples of cooperatives, where the growers who plant and harvest also own the company and the factories.


Our lab focuses on diseases affecting sugarbeet, and how best to mitigate them in economical ways. We wish to provide Montana growers with the most up-to date, pertinent information available.  We are particularly interested in Rhizoctonia, Cercospora, and viruses affecting sugarbeet.


Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns.

Jessica and Dr. Barry Jacobsen at Rhizoctonia beet trials in Huntley


Dr. Barry Jacobsen and Jessica at the Southern Ag Research Center for Rhizoctonia ratings of sugarbeet, 2015

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