Technologies to Enhance Crop Security of FODDER BEET, a High Yielding Green Fodder Crop Gaining Popularity in Arid Regions

Vinayak Rudra
Vinayak Rudra
Pictorial Representation of Production Technology of Fodder Beet
Pictorial Representation of Production Technology of Fodder Beet

The availability of green fodder for the livestock of the farmers of arid regions has been a challenging task due to the harsh and unpredictable environment of the regions. Providing a significant solution for the problem, the ICAR-Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan has come up with a new fodder crop, that is, Fodder Beet (Beta vulgaris), a plant that produces tubers of an average weight of 5 to 6 kgs.

Why Fodder Beet?

  • High yield potential (20 t DM/ha+), so you need less land to winter the same number of animals

  • High utilization (typically 90%), for improved animal performance

  • Relatively low-cost c/kg DM at high yields

  • Unaffected by most brassica diseases

  • Versatility

Fodder beet has a number of features which can benefit dairy, beef, sheep and deer farmers. Whether grazed in situ, or lifted and fed out, the potential yield, feed value, utilization and economics of this crop stack up well in many different farm systems. Fodder beet demands good management to reach its potential, and care must be taken with animal feeding. Brassicas like kale and swedes have lower establishment costs, and can be sown on more diverse land classes. If you’re new to fodder beet, seek advice from your retailer well before sowing.

The successful integration of fodder beet into the farm system, like any crop, requires careful selection of varieties and good practice to achieve high yields, good utilization, and manage transition risks.

Fodder Beet Types

It’s important to choose the correct fodder beet variety for your feed requirements and intended use (grazing, lifting or both). Good starting points for this decision are bulb DM content, and whether the crop is only intended to be lifted. Table 1 below highlights some of the typical bulb DM % ranges of varieties available in India.

Fodder beet can be divided into three groups based on these factors:

Low bulb DM% (12-15%)

Lower yield potential, usually with a high % of bulb above ground (50%+). Only suited to grazing in situ.

Eg: Monro

Medium-high bulb DM% (16-20%)

Higher yield potential than low DM % types, and can be grazed in situ.

Eg: Jomon

Lifting types

Bulbs sit lower in the ground, and are not suitable for grazing in situ.  Very high DM % types are best for maximum yield potential and increased bulb storage life.

Eg: JK Kuber, Geronimo, Splendide

Fodder Beet in Livestock systems

Fodder beet forage systems provide a flexible, high quality feed option which have the potential to deliver high yields in autumn, winter and early spring with inherently high rates of utilization by livestock. Many different livestock systems can benefit from the inclusion of fodder beet (see Table 1). Successful farm system outcomes from grazing fodder beet rely on appropriate grazing management which minimizes the risk of animal health and production issues. This includes a suitable diet plan and a well planned and executed transition phase with appropriate choices around supplement use.






Extended lactation Transition for winter feeding

Winter feed High utilisation crop

Balance high protein pasture Help build spring cover


Supplement autumn pasture if dry Parasite free feed

Winter maintenance High stocking rate Winter liveweight gain

Balance high protein pasture

Sheep and Goat

Flushing feed in a dry autumn

Winter maintenance Winter lamb liveweight gain

Balance high protein pasture

The package of practices of the crop has also been adopted by the Rajasthan State Department of Agriculture. The crop is now being grown in other agro-climatic regions as well. The farmers of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh have also tried and gave a positive feedback about the crop (Source, ICAR).

Planning or preparation of land

Soil test 6-12 months before sowing. Choose suitable paddocks(s). As the seed of this crop is small, a fine tilth is required for its sowing. A deep ploughing with disc plough or MB plough followed by two cross harrowing should be done. Afterwards make ridges of 40cm width, 15cm high and furrows of 30cm with a ridge maker.

Sowing date

Sowing date is location and season dependent, but early October to late November is generally recommended, once soil temperature is consistently above 10°C. About 2-2.5kg seed/hectare is required. Sowing too early (<10°C) can result in uneven germination, making spray timings difficult, as well as risking vernalization, where the plants bolt to flower in late summer. Later sowings shorten the growing season, reducing yield potential.

Research findings can conclude that transplanting technique can be used to achieve target plant populations of fodder beet crops.

Manures and Fertilizer requirement

It is a heavy feeder and hence respond very well to nutrient application. Apply 25-40 tonnes FYM/ha during land preparation. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potash should be applied @ 150:75:150 kg/ha. Sulphur and Zinc @ 30 and 25 kg/ha should also be applied if soils are deficient in them (Source: CAZRI).

Nitrogen should be applied in three splits, that is, half at sowing and 1/4 each at 30 and 50 days after sowing (DAS) (Source: ICAR).

Intercultural operations

Fodder beets are slow to germinate and if planted too early or in cold wet weather, weed seeds will germinate first and out-compete the seedlings hence, manual weeding along with earthing up should be done at 30 and 50 DAS.

As most of the fodder beet varieties are multigerm, more than one seedling may emerge from single seed, so all the extra seedling expects one per hill should be removed and where required gap filling should be done.


Irrigation is required throughout the summer months for the crop to attain its maximum yield. A total of 8–12 inches may be needed depending on the variety. The total amount of water that should be applied need not vary with soil type, but irrigation frequency and rate should. For example, irrigate light sandy soils more frequently but at a lower rate per application than heavier soils.


Normally it starts 120 days after sowing. However, as the roots do not spoil in the soil, early harvest is not necessary. Care should be taken not to bruise the skin of roots while digging out.

Top the crop (remove leaves) to within 2–4 inches of the top of the root or allow animals to forage the tops off, but ensure that the animals do not uproot the beets. Complete leaf removal is important to prevent re-sprouting if you are storing in piles. It is not necessary to remove all the soil from the roots, as some soil can improve root storability, but it does need to be removed prior to feeding. Fodder beets that are cut or damaged by harvesting equipment will likely rot in storage. Similarly, if tops are cut too close to the root, the root will be more susceptible to rot.

Feeding to animals

Cleaned roots and leaves can be fed directly to the animals. Dairy animals can be fed fresh fodder beet along with leaf @ 10-15kg/animal/day with other green and dry fodder materials. A one-week transition with 1kg roots is recommended.

Over doses may cause bloat. For sheep and goat 4-7kg/animal/day fresh beet is optimum. This can be feed to pigs also. Roots can be chopped and mixed with concentrates or dry fodder. It can be stored by sun drying chopped roots and then fed to animal afterwards mixed in concentrates (Source: CAZRI).

Crop rotation

Fodder beet should not be grown every year on the same field. It can be grown in rotation with cowpea, cluster bean, pearl millet in kharif and oats, berseem in rabi.


The individual root size varies from 2.5-4.5 kg. bigger than this size is also not uncommon. About 20% fodder is received as leaf foliage. Average fresh fodder yield after following these standard practices varies from 65-100 tones/ha.

Diseases, Insect pests and Nutritional disorders of Fodder Beet


Impact on Plant


Seedling Pests



Springtails (Bourletiella spp.)

Attack cotyledons and emerging plants

Chemical, crop rotation

Greasy Cutworm (Agrotis ipsilon aneituma)

Plants, especially seedlings ripped off at or just below ground level, young plants wilt

Chemical, crop rotation

Grass Grub (Costelytra zealandica)

Adults attack young growing points, larvae attack seedling roots


Wheat Bug (Nysius huttoni)

Ring barking of seedlings at ground level leaves plants susceptible to other attacks, damage is similar to that caused by wirestem


Weevils (Catopes spp.)

Chew cotyledons or stem at ground level, scalloping of leaf edge


Slugs (many species)

Creates severe damage to plants by destroying seedlings

Minimise crop residual

Seedling Fungal Diseases



Wirestem (Rhizoctonia)

Often results in complete plant death


Plant Pests



Leaf Miners (many species)

Larvae create tunnels and live within leaf tissue, tissue damage may reduce photosynthetic activity and cause leaf yellowing, premature leaf death, and limit growth at this time. Damage is similar to that caused by Diamondback moth


Crop Virus



Beet Necrotic Yellow Vein Virus

Pale yellow green leaf colour. Causes root malformation which reduces nutrient uptake.  Can cause leaf wilting

Crop rotation and hygiene

Beet Western Yellows Virus (BWYV)/Yellow Virus

General stunted growth, purpling of leaves

Crop rotation and hygiene

Crop Fungal Disease




Orange spores cover leaf surfaces. Effect on yield is yet to be confirmed

Research ongoing

Powdery Mildew

White powdery substance on leaf surface. Evidence suggests a yield reduction may occur

Research ongoing

Rhizoctonia Root Rot (Rhizoctonia solani)

Caused by soil borne fungi. Leaves wilt and collapse and brown rot develops on the root

Crop rotation, good drainage, maintained soil structure, cultivar selection

Wet Rot (Phytophthora spp.)

Foliage wilts and shrivels and a rot of the root develops from the tip upwards

Good drainage, maintained soil structure and avoiding excessive irrigation

Crop Nutrient Deficiencies



Brown Heart/Heart Rot

Boron deficiency creates the symptoms of the central leaves dying and rotting and can extend to the crown of the root which becomes hollow

Soil testing, boron fertiliser application


Deficiencies Pale yellowing of leaf. Symptoms of slight magnesium deficiency are similar to that of Beet Western Yellows Virus, although the BWYV is very bright and often tinted orange

Soil testing and fertiliser application


Vinayak Rudra,

M.Sc. (Hons.) Horticulture,

Department of Vegetable Science,

Sri Konda Laxman Telangana State Horticultural University, Mulugu, Siddipet District,

Telangana, India-502279.

Cell No.: +918374719146, +919182241441

e-mail ID: vinayakrudra143@gmail.com

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