Beetroot Farming

Beetroot, scientifically known as Beta vulgaris, is a type of herbaceous biennial root vegetable belonging to the Chenopodiaceae family. It is cultivated primarily for its edible root. The plant typically has an upright growth habit, characterized by a lengthy main root and a cluster of leaves that form a rosette on the stems. The leaves, which are oval-shaped, grow in an alternating pattern along the stem and can reach lengths of 20 to 40 cm. The roots are commonly red in color, and the plant produces flowers that are green and lacking a stalk.

Beetroot is known for its ease of cultivation and is consistently ranked as one of the most popular vegetables grown in home gardens. In Kenya, the practice of beetroot farming has gained popularity, particularly in the counties of Nakuru, Kiambu, and Tharaka Nithi, where it is extensively produced.

BENEFITS OF BEETROOT

Beetroot offers a variety of uses and benefits:

  • It can be incorporated into soups, salads, chutneys, and even juiced.
  • When cooked, it makes a delicious hot vegetable dish.
  • Its high sugar content makes it an excellent base for homemade wine production.
  • Beetroot is a source of dietary fiber and contains phytonutrients, which have anti-cancer properties.
  • It is rich in vitamin B, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects, and vitamin C, which promotes healthy bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas, among other health benefits.
  • The chemicals present in beetroot roots can be extracted and used to create food colors.

VARIETIES

In Kenya, various varieties of Beetroot are grown, including:

  • Bolt hardy: This variety is known for its flavorful taste, smooth-skinned round roots, and resistance to bolting.
  • Detroit 6 Rubidus: It is a bolt-resistant variety with smooth, firm, and round roots.
  • Chioggia Pink: This variety stands out with its beautiful red and white rings inside the roots. The roots are round, sweet, and tender.
  • Cylindra: Cylindra variety features dark crimson cylindrical roots. It is resistant to bolting and excellent for storage purposes.
  • Burpee’s Golden: The roots of this variety are round, yellow in color, and have a good flavor. Additionally, the tops of the plant can be consumed, similar to spinach.

ECOLOGICAL REQUIREMENTS

Beetroot is a resilient crop that thrives in cool weather conditions, allowing for year-round cultivation as long as there is sufficient water availability.

While it flourishes in cool climates, it can tolerate both heat and light freezing conditions to some extent.

The ideal temperature range for optimal growth is between 15 and 25°C. Excessively high temperatures can negatively affect the color and quality of the roots.

To ensure successful cultivation, the soil should be loose, deep, and possess good drainage capabilities. Ideally, the pH level of the soil should range from 6.0 to 7.0.

For the best development of the crop, it is recommended to grow beetroot in full sunlight.

FIELD OPERATIONS

Propagation

Propagation of beetroot is done by directly sowing seeds in the main field.

Procedure
  1. Land preparation: Apply CLAMPDOWN 480SL 200ml/20l, a non-selective herbicide, to control weeds effectively.
  2. Plough and level the land, ensuring a fine tilth.
  3. Drench the soil with a mixture of LOYALTY 700WDG 10g + PYRAMID 700WP 100g + OPTIMIZER 20ml in 20 liters of water. This mixture helps eliminate soil pests and diseases, breaks seed dormancy, promotes uniform germination, and supplies nutrients.
  4. Plant one seed at a depth of 0.5 inches, spacing them 1 inch apart in rows spaced 12-15 inches from each other.
  5. Water the garden.
  6. Seedlings typically emerge within 1-2 weeks.

Cultural practices

Thinning

Once the seedlings have grown to a height of 3-5 inches, it is necessary to thin them by maintaining a spacing of 3-5 inches between each plant.

During thinning, it is advisable to remove the weakest seedlings while being careful not to disturb the remaining ones.

It is important to note that the distance between the plants directly affects the size of the beetroots, as closer spacing will result in smaller-sized beetroots.

Irrigation

Thinning should be carried out promptly after seed planting.

Beetroot plants demand ample water for accelerated growth, making irrigation essential during dry seasons.

However, excessive watering can lead to excessive foliage growth while hindering root development.

Insufficient water supply often results in woody roots.

Mulching

Implementing mulching serves two purposes: conserving soil moisture and suppressing weed growth. As the mulch decomposes, it gradually releases nutrients into the soil, which are then absorbed by the crop.

Weeding

It is important to perform regular weeding to prevent weed competition, which can result in reduced crop yields.

During the weeding process, it is recommended to earth up the soil around the plants, covering the roots to protect them from sunlight exposure.

Prior to planting, it is advisable to spray the garden with CLAMPDOWN 480SL 200ml/20l, a non-selective herbicide effective in controlling various types of weeds. This proactive measure significantly reduces weed growth throughout the entire crop season.

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is essential for preserving soil fertility and preventing the accumulation of pests and diseases. This practice is particularly important when cultivating crops that are not from the same family.

COMMON PESTS & DISEASE CONTROL

Pests

Leafminers (Lyriomyza spp.)

Small whitish maggots can be observed feeding between the surfaces of the leaves. As they feed, they create thin, white, winding trails on the leaves. Severe infestations can cause white blotches to appear on the leaves and result in premature leaf drop.

Early infestations can lead to reduced crop yields. To combat this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with either ALONZE 50EC at a rate of 5ml/20l, ESCORT 19EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, or SINOPHATE 750SP at a rate of 20g/20l.

Aphids (Aphis spp)

Small sucking insects, which can be green, red, black, or white in color, feed on plant sap, resulting in curled or twisted leaves that turn yellow.

These insects excrete honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold.

To address this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with either PENTAGON 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, KINGCODE ELITE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, or LOYALTY 700WDG at a rate of 5g/20l.

To cleanse the sooty mold, JAMBO CLEAN can be used at a rate of 100ml/20l.

Darkling beetle or Rove beetle (Blapstinus spp., Staphylinid spp)

The beetle is known to feed on stems, resulting in damage and sometimes even the death of seedlings. Additionally, it has a tendency to dig up seeds. This beetle is primarily active during the night and tends to seek shelter in debris during the daytime.

To address this issue, it is advisable to spray the affected area with either KINGCODE ELITE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, PRESENTO 200SP at a rate of 5g/20l, or LEXUS 247SC at a rate of 8ml/20l.

Root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.)

The presence of these pests leads to the development of galls on the roots, which in turn diminishes the vigor of the plants. As a result, the affected plants may exhibit yellowing and wilting, particularly in hot weather conditions.

Gall formation can occur as early as one month before the planting phase.

To combat this issue, it is recommended to drench the soil with ALONZE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l. Alternatively, you can incorporate 2kgs of ADVENTURE 0.5GR into 50kg of basal fertilizers as a preventive measure.

Beet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii)

The symptoms of the infestation can vary depending on the crop’s stage. Affected seedlings typically exhibit stunted growth, reduced leaf development, and older leaves may turn yellow and wilt during the hot part of the day.

The roots of the infected plants appear stunted, with an abundance of secondary roots, and they exhibit yellow-brown cysts.

Symptoms may not be as noticeable on older plants.

To address this issue, it is recommended to drench the soil with ALONZE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l. Alternatively, you can mix 2kgs of ADVENTURE 0.5GR with 50kg of basal fertilizers as a preventive measure.

Leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus).

The insects in question are wedge-shaped, yellowish-green, and possess wings. They feed on plant foliage by piercing the leaves and extracting sap through sucking. Severe infestations can cause leaves to become crinkled and curled.

Furthermore, these insects are known to transmit virus diseases.

To combat this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with either KINGCODE ELITE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, LEXUS 247SC at a rate of 8ml/20l, or PRESENTO 200SP at a rate of 5g/20l.

Diseases

Damping off (Rhizoctonia solani, Phoma betae, Pythium ultimum, Aphanomyces cochlioides)

The disease is identified by the inability of seeds to germinate and the subsequent collapse of seedlings due to the decay of roots and stems.

To address this issue, it is recommended to drench the soil with PYRAMID 700WP at a rate of 100g/20l, CHAMCETYL ELITE 800WDG at a rate of 100g/20l, or DOMAIN 250EC at a rate of 20ml/20l.

For preventive measures, treat the seeds with BIODISTINCTION XTRA before planting.

Scab (Streptomyces scabies)

This particular disease is caused by a bacterial infection, which results in the formation of small round spots on the roots. These spots gradually increase in size, turn brown, and eventually rupture the root’s outer layer. Additionally, raised corky spots with gray, white, or tan colors can appear on the surface of the roots.

To address this bacterial disease, it is recommended to utilize copper-based fungicides for soil drenching. Examples of such fungicides include TRINITY GOLD 425WP, GREENCOP 500WP, or COLONIZER 440WP.

Bacterial blight (Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata)

Affected leaves display irregular to circular-shaped spots with centers ranging from tan to dark brown, surrounded by distinct dark black borders. Additionally, symptoms may also manifest on leaf edges, initially appearing water-soaked, then turning yellow, and eventually becoming necrotic. The spots may coalesce between the leaf veins, leading to dried areas that eventually detach, resulting in a ragged appearance of the leaf.

To address this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with copper-based fungicides such as GREENCOP 500WP at a rate of 50g/20l, TRINITY GOLD 425WP at a rate of 50g/20l, COLONIZER 440WP at a rate of 50g/20l, or BIODISTINCTION XTRA at a rate of 50ml/20l. These fungicides are effective in suppressing or preventing the activity of the bacteria causing the disease.

Additionally, using healthy and disease-free seeds can contribute to prevention and control measures.

Powdery mildew (Erysiphe betae)

In the early stages, symptoms of this disease manifest on older leaves as small, scattered, circular patches of white mycelium growth on the undersides. As the infection progresses, all the leaves become infected, presenting a dusty white appearance on both surfaces.

In severe cases, the leaves exhibit a progression from yellowing to a purplish-brown color.

To address this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with RANSOM 600WP at a rate of 15g/20l, DUCASSE 250EC at a rate of 20ml/20l, or ABSOLUTE 375SC at a rate of 10ml/20l. These fungicides are effective in combating the disease.

Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola)

The presence of this fungal infection results in the development of brown to gray flecks or spots on the leaves, often accompanied by red-purple halos surrounding the affected areas. As the infection progresses, the leaves become necrotic.

To combat this fungal infection, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with RANSOM 600WP at a rate of 15g/20l, MILLIONAIRE 690WDG at a rate of 40g/20l, or DUCASSE 250EC at a rate of 20ml/20l. These fungicides are effective in addressing the issue.

Downy mildew (Peronospora farinose)

When infected, the leaves exhibit a lighter green coloration and undergo a reduction in size, becoming puckered and thickened.

A fuzzy gray growth develops on both surfaces of the leaves.

To address this issue, it is recommended to spray the affected plants with FORTRESS GOLD 720WP at a rate of 40g/20l, TOWER 720WP at a rate of 50g/20l, or GEARLOCK TURBO 250WP at a rate of 25g/20l. These fungicides are effective in managing the infection.

It is also important to remove and properly dispose of any infected crop debris to prevent the spread of the disease.

Fusarium yellows and root rot (F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae, F. oxysporum f. sp. betae)

In the initial stages of infection, the affected leaves exhibit yellowing between the prominent veins. As the infection progresses, the entire leaves dry up, becoming brittle, and remain clustered near the plant’s base. Typically, only one side of the leaves is affected, giving them a scorched appearance.

The vascular tissues of infected plants show discoloration, and the plant displays wilting symptoms during the day, which partially recover at night. The tip of the taproot turns black due to rotting.

To address this issue, it is recommended to drench the soil with PYRAMID 700WP at a rate of 100g/20l, GEARLOCK TURBO 250WP at a rate of 50g/20l, or GREENCOP 500WP at a rate of 10g/20l. These fungicides are effective in managing the infection.

Beet Curly Top disease (Beet curly top virus (BCTV), Beet severe curly top virus (BSCTV), Beet mild curly top virus (BMCTV))

The leaves affected by the infection exhibit dwarfing, crinkling, and upward and inward rolling. On the lower surface of the leaves, the veins become irregularly swollen.

The infected beets show discoloration of the vascular tissue, and the young roots become stunted and distorted. The rootlets twist and become distorted, ultimately leading to the death of some rootlets. This results in the growth of new rootlets, giving the appearance of a hairy root.

The disease is transmitted through the beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus).

To control the vectors, the leafhoppers, it is recommended to use KINGCODE ELITE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, PRESENTO 200SP at a rate of 5g/20l, or SINOPHATE 750SP at a rate of 20g/20l. These treatments are effective in managing the leafhopper population and reducing the transmission of the disease.

Beet Western Yellows disease (Beet Western Yellows Virus (BWYV))

The initial symptoms appear on older leaves as yellowing between the veins, accompanied by small reddish-brown spots that impart a noticeable bronze hue to the infected leaves. With the progression of the infection, the leaves become thick, leathery, and brittle.

The virus responsible for this disease is transmitted by aphids.

To control the aphid vectors, it is recommended to use PENTAGON 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, KINGCODE ELITE 50EC at a rate of 10ml/20l, or PRESENTO 200SP at a rate of 5g/20l. These treatments effectively manage the aphid population, thereby reducing the transmission of the virus.

NUTRITION & NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES

In order to achieve maximum yield, it is essential to provide the crop with an adequate supply of nutrients throughout its growth and development stages. This can be accomplished by utilizing both basal and foliar fertilizers.

Basal fertilizers are applied to the soil and are absorbed by the crop through its roots. Examples of basal fertilizers include:

  • DAP (Di-Ammonium Phosphate): It is commonly used during the planting phase.
  • CAN (Calcium Ammonium Nitrate): It is primarily utilized for top dressing purposes.

These are just a few examples of basal fertilizers that can be used to provide essential nutrients to the crop during its growth cycle.

Foliar fertilizers are nutrients that are absorbed by the crop through its foliage. Some examples of foliar fertilizers include:

  • OPTIMIZER: This crop stress manager enhances the plant’s immunity, stimulates growth, and improves the quality of beets. It can be sprayed at any stage of crop development. The recommended dosage is 10ml/20l.
  • GOLDCHANCE RANGE: This range of foliar fertilizers supports the crop’s growth and development at various stages, ultimately increasing production. The recommended dosage is 50g/20l.
  • DIMIPHITE: This foliar fertilizer is specifically designed to enhance the quality of beets. The recommended dosage is 20ml/20l.

These foliar fertilizers play a crucial role in providing essential nutrients and promoting the overall health and productivity of the beet crop.

Deficiencies

Nitrogen Deficiency

The initial symptoms of Nitrogen deficiency in the plant include overall yellowing of the leaves. As the plant ages, this yellowing continues and is accompanied by wilting, as well as an increased rate of older leaf death.

The newly formed leaves in the center of the plant appear significantly smaller and narrower compared to the older leaves, and they exhibit a vibrant green coloration.

To rectify this deficiency, it is recommended to apply GOLDCHANCE SUPER GROWTH or LAVENDER fertilizers.

Phosphorus Deficiency

The primary symptoms of the deficiency include general stunting of the plant and a progressive intensification of the green color in the foliage. Initially, the deepening green color appears without any distinct visible signs. However, as the deficiency becomes more severe, the deep green foliage may develop a metallic luster, ranging from a dull grayish green to an almost bluish green shade.

To address this deficiency, it is recommended to use fertilizers such as GOLDCHANCE SUPER START, LAVENDER, PLANT SOUL, DIMIPHITE, or GREENPHITE.

Potassium deficiency

As the deficiency worsens, the leaflets exhibit crinkling, and other leaves display necrosis along the margins. With further progression of the deficiency, the interveinal areas of the leaves become necrotic, while the veins retain their green color. This leads to the curling of the leaves.

To rectify this deficiency, it is recommended to use fertilizers such as DIMIPHITE, GOLDCHANCE SUPER FLOWERS & FRUITS, GREENPHITE, or LEGENDARY.

Magnesium Deficiency

Plants experiencing Magnesium deficiency display yellowing of the leaves, particularly in the interveinal areas. The interveinal tissue takes on a scorched appearance, with the development of dry spots within these areas. Over time, these dry spots expand, encompassing most of the interveinal tissue, except for a distinct green triangular region resembling an arrowhead shape.

To address this deficiency, it is recommended to use fertilizers such as FERRARI GOLD, GOLDCHANCE, LAVENDER, or EURO GOLD PLUS.

Manganese Deficiency

In plants experiencing Manganese deficiency, the leaf blades undergo a gradual transition from green to a consistent yellow color. As the deficiency intensifies, a gray to purplish luster develops on the upper surface of the leaf blades. Subsequently, gray to black freckles appear along the veins.

To address this deficiency, it is recommended to use EURO GOLD PLUS fertilizer.

Sulfur Deficiency

In plants suffering from sulfur deficiency, the leaves of the entire crop undergo a gradual transition from green to light green, and eventually to a light yellow shade with a slight hint of green remaining. Specifically, the new center leaves of sulfur-deficient plants turn light green, approaching a nearly yellow color.

As the deficiency progresses, the leaves of sulfur-deficient plants remain upright while their center leaves change from green to yellow. Additionally, the petioles and blades of the leaves become brittle and can easily break when compressed by hand.

To address this deficiency, it is recommended to use SOURVENIER 800WDG fertilizer.

Please note that whenever conducting a foliar spray using any product, it is recommended to mix it with INTEGRA at a rate of 3ml/20l. INTEGRA is a sticker, spreader, and penetrant agent that enhances the effectiveness of the product being applied, whether it is an insecticide, fungicide, foliar fertilizer, or herbicide.

MATURITY, HARVESTING & POST-HARVEST HANDLING OF BEETROOT

Most varieties of beetroot reach maturity within 55 to 70 days, and harvesting typically begins when the roots reach a diameter of approximately 5cm (resembling the size of a golf ball).

For beet greens, young leaves can be harvested for salads when they are 2-5cm in height, while older leaves should be harvested before they grow longer than 15cm.

To facilitate the harvesting process, it is advisable to water the soil the day before to make it easier to pull the beets. Firmly grasp the top of the beet and pull it vertically to remove it from the soil. Alternatively, a garden fork can be used to carefully dig out the beets.

Before storing the beetroot, trim off the tops, taking care not to damage them. This prevents bleeding, which can affect the color and flavor of the beet and helps maintain freshness.

After harvest, wash the beets and grade them based on their size. Only undamaged roots are suitable for storage, and for successful storage, they should be kept in cool conditions that are free from frost.

Beetroots can also be preserved by pickling them and storing them in jars, allowing them to have an extended shelf life.

It’s important to note that if beetroots are left in the soil for an extended period, the roots can become woody and less appetizing.

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