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Beet was first developed as a sugar producing crop in the late 16th century. During the Napoleonic wars the naval blockade of France forced European countries to develop the crop. However, it was not until the 19th century that beet was finally established for sugar production in areas such as Europe, Scandinavia and North America. Sugar beet factories are generally efficient at produce a wide range of products as well as sugar. These include animal feed, medical products, foods and agricultural fertilisers. Sucrose production from sugar beet has always been subject to political influences and most countries operate under production quota systems. The fermentation of ethanol in beet factories helps to provide a partial solution to the problem of what to do with any excess sugar production. Sugar beet can also be a good substrate for biogas. The energy used per hectare to produce beet for biofuel is less than that for wheat or corn, but the main problem with beet is the difficulty of storage of the roots and, hence, provision of all-year-round substrate for biofuel production. A limited amount of research is being undertaken to improve the opportunities for beet as a biofuel crop.

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