Beta vulgaris

This species, which belongs to the family Chenopodiacea, has been domesticated into sugar beet, garden beets (beetroots), fodder beet, mangolds, and chards. It is open-pollinated and breeding is based on recurrent mass selection.

The German chemist Marggraf first observed sugar in fodder beets and his pupil Achard started improving the crop and developing extraction techniques. Napoleon encouraged beet sugar production during the British naval blockade, which prevented the import of cane sugar from the West Indies. Subsequent tariff protection of various European and North American beet sugar industries did much to stimulate production. Beet sugar now makes up about half of the world supply of crystalline sugar. The accumulation of resistance to 'curly top' virus in North America was a good example of very rare twentieth century breeding for horizontal resistance. Recent breeding has produced 'monogerm' varieties which have only one seed in each fruit. These are important as they eliminate the need for hand-thinning, and they allow the total mechanisation of the crop. However, this degree of technicality has taken the crop out of the hands of amateur breeders.

Beetroots, fodder beet, mangolds, and chards offer scope to the amateur breeder working with horizontal resistance. Betula spp.

Birch trees, used in plantation forests to produce hardwood. Not recommended for amateur breeders. Biennial

A plant which requires two seasons to flower, fruit, and die. Biffin, R.H.

The scientist in Cambridge who first discovered single-gene resistance and initiated the long and misguided history of professional plant breeding for vertical resistance. Billion

The term billion should be used in the more logical American sense to mean one thousand million (109), rather than the somewhat idiosyncratic British sense of one million million

(10 ) which is called one trillion in North America.

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