) is a cultivated plant of Beta vulgaris
, in the family Chenopodiaceae. Its root contains 15-20% sucrose by weight, but the value depends on the variety and the location, and may vary from year to year.
Sugar beet is cultivated commercially for sugar production, and beet sugar accounts for 30% of the world's sugar production. Three largest sugar beet producers are The United States of America, Russia and the Europian Union.
Sugar beet is a temperate climate biennial root crop, producing sugar during the first year of growth. Sugar beet plants have white, conical-shaped roots, growing deep into the soil with only the crown exposed. They usually have two shallow vertical grooves, in which two lines of lateral roots emerge. If the plant is not harvested at this time, then during the second growing season, the root will decrease in size, as the nutrient in the root is used to produce flowers and seeds. In commercial production, the sugar beets are harvested after the first growing season. Sugar beets are usually planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn. In California's Imperial Valley, sugar beets are grown as a winter crop, planted in the autumn and harvested in the spring. The growing period from sowing to harvesting is 170-200 days.
Sugar beets are harvested and hauled to the factory where the roots are washed, mechanically sliced into thin strips called cossettes, and passed to a long machine called a diffuser to extract the sugar content into a water solution known as raw juice. The color of raw juice varies from dark red to black, depending on the amount of oxidation, which itself depends on the design of the diffuser.
The used cossettes, or pulp, with 95% moisture but low sucrose content, exit the diffuser and transfer to screw presses where it is pressed down to 75% moisture. Additional raw juice is collected and introduced into the diffuser at the appropriate point in the countercurrent process. Before the raw juice undergoes crystallization, a procedure known as carbonatation is introduced to remove impurities, and a cleaner, golden light-brown sugar solution called thin juice is produced. The thin juice may receive soda ash to modify the pH and sulphitation to reduce colour formation due to decomposition of monosaccharides under heat. The thin juice is then concentrated via multiple-effect evaporation to make thick juice which contains about 60% sucrose by weight. Thick juice can be stored in tanks for later processing, or feed to crystallizers. Cystallized sugar are later dried in a granulator using warm air. The final byproduct, known as Vinasse, is used as a growth substrate for yeast cultures and as fertilizer.
Apart from the normal sugar, sugar from sugar beet is used to make tuzemak, a type of rum popular in Czech Republic. It is also used to make rectified spirit and vodka.
Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris )
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