Sugar beet. [iStockphoto]

Sugar beet is a type of root vegetable that is grown primarily for sugar production. 

It belongs to the same family as the table beet, but it has higher sugar content, making it valuable for the production of sugar. 

Farmers from Nyandarua County have been eyeing the production of sugar beets following the establishment of a beet sugar processing factory in Kipipiri Constituency. The factory is set to be the first of its kind outside Western, Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Coast regions. 

Michael Ndemi says he has set his eyes on the crops and is hopeful it will pay off while experimenting with its viability as an alternative venture. 

Site Selection

Choose a site with well-draining soil, preferably sandy loam, that receives full sunlight. Sugar beets do well in slightly acidic to neutral soil pH levels (6.0 to 7.5). 

Soil Preparation

Prepare the soil by ploughing, harrowing, and levelling the field. Remove any debris or rocks that could interfere with growth. “Incorporate organic matter like compost to improve soil fertility and structure,” says Ndemi. 

Seed Selection and Planting

Choose high-quality sugar beet seeds from a reputable supplier. Plant seeds directly into the soil when the temperature reaches around 50°F (10°C). Sow the seeds about 0.5 to one inch deep and four to six inches apart in rows spaced 18 to 24 inches apart. 


Test the soil before planting to determine nutrient deficiencies. Based on the results, apply fertilisers containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium accordingly. “Sugar beets have specific nutrient requirements, so it is essential to provide the right balance of nutrients for optimal growth,” says Ndemi. 


Sugar beets require consistent moisture throughout the growing season. Aim for about one to 1.5 inches of water per week, either through rainfall or irrigation. Be careful not to overwater as this can lead to rotting or disease. 

Weed Control

Keep the field free from weeds, especially during the early stages of growth when sugar beet plants are most vulnerable. You can use mechanical cultivation, hand weeding, or herbicides to control weeds, but be cautious to avoid damaging the plants. 

Pest and Disease Management

Monitor the field regularly for signs of pests such as aphids, wireworms, or beet armyworms as well as diseases like powdery mildew or Rhizoctonia root rot. Employ integrated pest management strategies, including cultural practices, biological controls, and if necessary, chemical treatments.  Prospects

The farmers hope sugar beet will become the cash crop of Nyandarua since it has more potential to produce sugar than sugarcane.

“Sugarcane has seven per cent sugar content, while sugar beet produces between 16 per cent and 20 per cent sugar. Another advantage is that we can harvest the crop every five months, which means we can produce more sugar in a year compared to sugarcane,” Ndemi said.