Friday, July 02, 2021

History of the sugar beet in United States

The beets, like most vegetables, were brought to American by the European immigrants. By 1800 the long-pointed root that was familiar to Europe had developed into the round bulbous root or flat-bottom root vegetable that we are familiar with today.

In 1747, Andreas Marggraf, a Prussian chemist, discovered that the plant contained sugar which possessed identical chemical and physical properties with that of sugar obtained from sugar cane.

The history of beet sugar production in the USA can be traced back to 1838 when two Americans, Edward Church and David Lee Child, who had lived for some time in Paris, built a beet sugar factory at Northampton, Massachusetts. This factory, however, made only 1300 pounds of sugar in its first campaign and it closed down in 1841.

Other attempts in Michigan, Utah, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maine, and Delaware also ended in failure.

The beet sugar industry in the United States may be said to date from 1870 with the factory in Alvarado, California. It was built by Dyer, a courageous businessman, can be considered as the founder of the beet sugar industry in America. The factory was built at a cost of $125 000 and with a daily capacity of 50 t of roots. The factory was remodeled in 1879 and essentially rebuilt in 1936.

Until World War I, most sugar beet seed used in the United States came from Europe. The disruption of seed importation from Germany caused by the war led to the establishment of domestic seed production, and by the end of the 1930s, domestic production provided about one-third of the needs of the United States.

The Shakers were among the first commercial seed growers. They sold seeds in “papers” and started a tradition of commercial seed growing and selling. As home gardening became popular and necessary in the early 19th century, seed catalogs and mail order became an economical way to buy seeds.

During the fifty or so years prior to 1934, the beet sugar industry grew from fledgling size to one offering opportunities to the risk-oriented entrepreneur. In the first half of the twentieth century sugar beet growing in the USA expanded steadily. American trade policy was aimed at protecting the small domestic sugar industry and in 1934 the Jones-Costigan Amendment was enacted which taxed imported sugar whilst controlling and limiting domestic production

The new selective herbicides of the 1980s eliminated the need for hand weeding in many crops. With the introduction of mechanical harvesters, first in the USA and then in Europe, the crop no longer had to be harvested by hand.
History of the sugar beet in United States