Beetroot Farming

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is an herbaceous biennial root vegetables in the family Chenopodiaceae grown for its edible root.

Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is an herbaceous biennial root vegetables in the family Chenopodiaceae grown for its edible root.

The plant is usually erect with a long main root and a rosette of leaves growing on stems. The leaves are oval in shape, arranged alternately on the stem and grow to 20–40 cm in length. The roots are usually red in color and it produces sessile green flowers.

Beetroot is generally easy to grow and is consistently ranked as one of the top vegetables grown in home gardens.

In Kenya, Beetroot farming has become more popular, with the major producing counties being Nakuru, Kiambu and Tharaka Nithi.


  • Beetroot can be used in soups, salads and chutneys and also juice.
  • It is also good served as a hot vegetable.
  • It can be used as good base for homemade wine due to its high sugar content.
  • Source of dietary fibre and has anti-cancer properties as it contains phytonutrients. It is rich in vitamin B which reduces birth defect risks and vitamin C which is good for bones, liver, kidneys and pancreas, among other health benefits.
  • The chemicals in the roots can be extracted and used to make food colors.


The following are some of the Beetroot varieties grown in Kenya

  • Bolt hardy – has a good flavour, smooth skinned round roots, good bolt resistance
  • Detroit 6 Rubidus – is bolt resistant and has smooth round firm roots
  • Chioggia Pink – has beautiful red and white rings inside, round roots, sweet and tender
  • Cylindra – has dark crimson cylindrical roots, bolt resistant, excellent for storage
  • Burpee’s Golden – has good flavoured round roots which are yellow in colour and its tops can be eaten like spinach


Beetroot is a hardy and cool weather crop and it can be grown throughout the year as long as there is enough water.

It grows best in cool climates but can tolerate some heat and some freezing.

The optimum temperature for its growth is between 15 and 25°C. Very hot conditions result in poor colour of the roots and this lowers the quality.

The soil should be loose, deep and well drained, with a pH of 6.0-7.0.

The crop should be grown in full sun for optimum development.



Beetroot is propagated from seeds which are sown directly in the main field.


  1. Land preparation. Spray weeds with CLAMPDOWN 480SL 200ml/20l, a non-selective herbicide which kills all kinds of weeds.
  2. Plough and level the land, ensuring a fine tilth.
  • Drench soil with a mixture of LOYALTY 700WDG 10g + PYRAMID 700WP 100g+ OPTIMIZER 20ml in 20litres of water. The mixture helps in eradicating soil pests and diseases and breaks seed dormancy, promotes uniform germination as well as supplying nutrients.
  1. Plant one seed every 1 inch at a depth of 0.5 inches in rows spaced 12–15 inches apart.
  2. Water the garden.

Seedlings emerge in 1-2 weeks.

Cultural practices


When seedlings have reached between 3–5 inches in height, they should be thinned to a spacing of 3–5 inches between plants.

Usually, the weakest seedlings are cut, while avoiding disturbance to the others.

The closer the plants, the smaller the beetroots will be.


This should be done immediately after planting the seeds.

Beetroot requires a lot of water for faster growth, therefore, irrigation should be practised during the dry season.

Overwatering leads to rapid vegetative growth at the expense of root development.

When the crop lacks water, the resulting roots are usually woody.


This helps in conserving soil moisture and suppression of weeds. When decomposed, the mulch releases nutrients into the soil which are absorbed by the crop.


Regular weeding should be done because weeds compete with the crop for growth factors leading to low yields.

While weeding, earthing up should be done to cover the roots and prevent exposure to the sun.

Before planting, the garden should be sprayed with CLAMPDOWN 480SL 200m/20l which is a non-selective herbicide for controlling all kinds of weeds. This greatly reduces weed development throughout the crop’s season.

Crop rotation

This should be practised with non-family crops to maintain soil fertility and prevent build-up of pests and diseases.



Leafminers (Lyriomyza spp.)

These are small whitish maggots feed between the leaf surfaces

As they feed, they form thin, white, winding trails on leaves. Heavy mining can result in white blotches on leaves and premature dropping of leaves

Early infestation can cause reduction in yield to be reduced.

Spray ALONZE 50EC 5ml/20l or ESCORT 19EC 10ml/20l or SINOPHATE 750SP 20g/20l

Aphids (Aphis spp)

These are small green, red, black or white sucking insects which feed by sucking plant sap causing the leaves to get curled or twisted and become yellow.

They excrete honeydew which encourages the formation of sooty mold.

Spray PENTAGON 50EC 10ml20l or KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l or LOYALTY 700WDG 5g/20l

Use JAMBO CLEAN 100ml/20l to cleanse the sooty mold.

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

The beetle feeds and causes damage on stems and death of seedlings. It also digs up seeds and is generally active at night and hides in debris during the day.

Spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l or PRESENTO 200SP 5g/20l or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20l

Root knot nematode (Meloidogyne spp.)

Infestation causes formation of galls on roots which reduce plant vigor and causes yellowing of the plants which wilt in hot weather.

The galls can appear as early as a month prior to planting.

Drench soil with ALONZE 50EC 10ml/20l or mix basal fertilizers (50kg) with 2kgs of ADVENTURE 0.5GR

Beet cyst nematode (Heterodera schachtii)

The symptoms may vary depending on the stage of the crop. The infected seedling exhibit stunting and reduced leaf growth and older leaves become yellow and wilted during the hot period of the day.

The roots appear stunted with lots of secondary roots, and show yellow-brown cysts.

Symptoms may not be much noticeable on older plants.

Drench soil with ALONZE 50EC 10ml/20l or mix basal fertilizers (50kg) with 2kgs of ADVENTURE 0.5GR

Leafhoppers (Circulifer tenellus).

These are yellowish green, wedge shaped, winged insects which feed on plant foliage by piercing leaves and sucking on sap. On severe infestations, leaves become crinkled and curled.

They also spread virus diseases.

Spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l or LEXUS 247SC 8ml/20l or PRESENTO 200SP 5g/20l


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

This disease is characterized by failure of seed to emerge and collapsing of seedlings due to rotting of roots and stems.

Drench soil with PYRAMID 700WP 100g/20l or CHAMCETYL ELITE 800WDG 100g/20l or DOMAIN 250EC 20ml/20l.

Treat seeds with BIODISTINCTION XTRA prior to planting.

Scab (Streptomyces scabies)

This is a bacterial disease whose infection causes development of small round spots on roots, which enlarge, turn brown and rupture the epidermis. Raised corky spots which are gray, white or tan in colour form on root surface.

Use/drench copper-based fungicides like TRINITY GOLD 425WP or GREENCOP 500WP or COLONIZER 440WP

Bacterial blight (Pseudomonas syringae pv. aptata)

Infected leaves show irregular to circular shaped spots with tan to dark brown centers and dark black borders. In some cases, symptoms also appear on the edges of the leaves which initially may appear water-soaked and later turn yellow and then necrotic. The spots may join together between the veins and the dried area falls off, which gives the leaf a ragged appearance.

Spray GREENCOP 500WP 50g/20l or TRINITY GOLD 425WP 50g/20l or COLONIZER 440WP 50g/20l or BIODISTINCTION XTRA 50ml/20l. These are copper-based fungicides which suppress/ prevent the action of the bacterium.

Use healthy and disease free seeds.

Powdery mildew (Erysiphe betae)

Initially, symptoms appear on older leaves as small, scattered, circular, white mycelium growth on lower surface. As infection progresses, all the leaves get infected and appear dusty white on both surfaces.

In severe cases, the leaves become yellow and then turn purplish-brown.

Spray RANSOM 600WP 15g/20l or DUCASSE 250EC 20ml/20l or ABSOLUTE 375SC 10ml/20l

Cercospora leaf spot (Cercospora beticola)

This is a fungal infection which leads to formation of brown to gray flecks or spots on leaves which are surrounded by red-purple halos. Leaves become necrotic as infection progresses.

Spray RANSOM 600WP 15g/20l or MILLIONAIRE 690WDG 40g/20l or DUCASSE 250EC 20ml/20l

Downy mildew (Peronospora farinose)

On infection, leaves appear lighter green, become small, puckered and thickened.

A fuzzy gray growth forms on both leaf surfaces.

Spray FORTRESS GOLD 720WP 40g/20l or TOWER 720WP 50g/20l or GEARLOCK TURBO 250WP 25g/20l

Remove and destroy the infected crop debris.

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

Initially, the infected leaves show yellowing between the larger veins. As infection progresses, the entire leaves become dry, brittle and remain clustered around the crown. Typically only one side of the leaves is affected and appear scorched.

The vascular tissues of infected plants are discolored and the plant appears wilted during day time and recover at night. The tip of taproot blackens due to rotting.

Drench soil with PYRAMID 700WP 100g/20l or GEARLOCK TURBO 250WP 50g/20l or GREENCOP 500WP 10g/20l

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

The infected leaves become dwarf, crinkle and roll upwards and inwards and the veins become irregularly swollen on the lower surface.

The diseased beet shows discoloration of the vascular tissue and the young roots become dwarfed and rootlets are twisted and distorted. The death of rootlets leads to growth of new rootlets which gives the hairy root appearance.

The disease is transmitted by beet leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus).

Control vectors (leafhoppers) with KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l or PRESENTO 200SP 5g/20l or SINOPHATE 750SP 20g/20l

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

The symptoms start on older leaves as yellowing between the veins with small reddish brown spots which give a distinct bronze cast on infected leaves. As infection continues, the leaves become thick, leathery, and brittle.

The virus is transmitted by aphids.

Control vectors (aphids) with PENTAGON 50EC 10ml/20l or KINGCODE ELITE 50EC 10ml/20l or PRESENTO 200SP 5g/20l


To achieve optimal production, the crop should be supplied with enough nutrients throughout its growth and development season and this is best achieved through the use of both basal and foliar fertilizers.

Basal fertilizers are absorbed by the crop through the roots and they include;

  • DAP- used during planting
  • CAN- for top dressing, among others

Foliar fertilizers are absorbed by the crop through its foliage. They include;

  • OPTIMIZER 10ml/20l -this is a crop stress manager, boosts plant’s immunity, stimulates plant’s growth and improves on the quality of the beets. It can be sprayed at any stage of the crop development.
  • GOLDCHANCE RANGE 50g/20l – this takes care of the crop at its different growth and development stages thus increases production.
  • DIMIPHITE 20ml/20l- this improves the quality of the beets.


Nitrogen Deficiency

When the plant first becomes Nitrogen-deficient, overall yellowing of leaves. Yellowing continues as the plant ages, accompanied by wilting and an accelerated death rate of the older leaves.

Newly formed leaves in the center of the plant are much smaller and narrower than older leaves and turn an intense green.

Phosphorus Deficiency

An overall stunting of the plant and a gradual deepening of the green color of foliage are the only visible symptoms. As the deficiency increases, the deep green color develops a metallic luster, ranging from dull grayish green to almost bluish green.


Potassium deficiency

Leaflets become crinkled with other leaves showing marginal necrosis. As deficiency progresses, interveinal area become necrotic while the veins remain green and leaves curl.


Magnesium Deficiency

Plants suffering from Magnesium deficiency become yellow and interveinal tissue becomes scorched. Dry spots develop within the scorched areas and gradually expand to include most of the interveinal tissue except for a green triangular area, in the shape of an arrowhead.


Manganese Deficiency

The leaf blades of Manganese-deficient plants gradually fade from green to a uniform yellow colour and as deficiency increases, a gray to purplish luster develops on the upper blade surface. This symptom is followed by gray to black freckling along the veins.

Correction; Use EURO GOLD PLUS

Sulfur Deficiency

Leaves of entire crop change gradually from green to light green, then to light yellow with a faint tinge of green remaining. The new center leaves of sulfur-deficient plants turn light green to almost yellow in colour.

The leaves of sulfur-deficient plants remain erect as their center leaves change from green to yellow and the petioles and blades are brittle and break readily if compressed by the hand.

Correction; Use SOURVENIER 800WDG

NOTE; whenever doing foliar spray of any product, it is advisable to mix it with INTEGRA 3ml/20l. This is a sticker, spreader and penetrant, which improves the efficacy of the product (insecticide, fungicide, foliar fertilizer or herbicide).


Most beetroot varieties mature in 55 to 70 days and harvesting generally starts when the roots are about 5cm in diameter (about golf-ball size).

Young beet greens can be harvested for salads when they are 2–5cm high and older greens before they reach 15cm long.

Watering the soil the day before harvest makes pulling the beets easier. The beets are pulled out of the soil by firmly grasping the top and pulling the root out of the soil vertically. Alternatively, a garden fork can be used to dig the beets out of the soil.

The tops of the beets are cut before storing the root, ensuring that no damages are made to them in order to prevent bleeding which affects the colour and flavour of the beet. This helps keep the beets fresh.

The harvested beets are washed then graded according to their size.

Only the undamaged roots are suitable for storing, and for a successful storage they should be kept in a cool, but frost free, conditions.

Beetroots can also be stored by pickling and storing them in jars. The pickle can last long.

If beetroots are left in the soil for a long time, the roots become woody and are not tasty.

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Last updated on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at 1:55 am

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