The Hidden Half

Sugar Beet

Sugar beet, Beta vulgaris, develops a large tap root that contains a high percentage of sucrose and is therefore an important resource for granulated sugar in Europe.

The first factory devoted to producing sugar from sugar beet was opened in 1801 in Poland. When the British restricted the flow of sugar from sugarcane into Europe, France devoted a huge amount of land to growing sugar beet. By 1880 sugar beet produced 50% of the world’s sugar. Sugar beet and beetroots are varieties of the same species.

Image of Sugar Beet Root Architecture

The X-ray CT scan clearly shows the thick tap root of the beet plant where the sugar is stored in the tissues. This variety of beet plant has been selectively bred to grow a large high sugar content tap root.

3D Root Architecture

This video shows a young sugar beet plant at around 6 weeks old. The thickening of the main tap root can be observed towards the top of the beet with finer roots or hairs radiating from the surface of the beet in a tightly woven mesh of root mat.

Root Anatomy

The image is a cross section taken through a sugar beet primary root and acquired using a confocal microscope.

The centrally positioned red rings are xylem cells (see blown up image in lower panel). In beet these form concentric rings of xylem as the sugar beet grows.

The sugar beet root cross-section reveals a large number of cortex cells that function as a storage tissue.

In the upper cross-section a lateral root emerging from the main root can be observed.

Image of sugar beet root anatomyImage of sugar beet root anatomy showing an enlarged view of the stele.

The Hidden Half

Hounsfield Facility (A03)
Sutton Bonington Campus
University of Nottingham
Loughborough, Leics, U.K.
LE12 5RD

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