The Agricultural Research Service has released two new breeding lines of smooth-root sugar beets for industry to use to develop commercial varieties. The new lines are called SR-96 and SR-97. They are the culmination of a series of seven “SR” (smooth-root) lines developed at the ARS Sugar Beet and Bean Research Unit at East Lansing, Mich.

The latest lines were developed by ARS geneticist J. Mitchell McGrath and the late Joseph W. Saunders, along with ARS plant physiologist John M. Halloin and geneticist J. Clair Theurer, both now retired.

The new breeding lines have the highest sugar content of the smooth-root lines, 17 percent, close to the 17.5 to 18 percent found in commercial varieties. The American Crystal Sugar Co. of Moorhead, Minn., a farmer-owned cooperative, gave the ARS researchers a high-sucrose line of sugar beets to help bring the sucrose level of smooth-root sugar beets closer to commercial levels.

Smooth roots are important to the sugar industry because sugar beet roots that are rough and lined with deep grooves tend to have more soil sticking to them when they are pulled from the ground, especially from mud.