Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. vulgaris) is an important crop of temperate climates which provides nearly 30% of the world's annual sugar production and is a source for bioethanol and animal feed. The species belongs to the order of Caryophylalles, is diploid with 2n = 18 chromosomes, has an estimated genome size of 714-758megabases and shares an ancient genome triplication with other eudicot plants. Leafy beets have been cultivated since Roman times, but sugar beet is one of the most recently domesticated crops. It arose in the late eighteenth century when lines accumulating sugar in the storage root were selected from crosses made with chard and fodder beet. Here we present a reference genome sequence for sugar beet as the first non-rosid, non-asterid eudicot genome, advancing comparative genomics and phylogenetic reconstructions. The genome sequence comprises 567megabases, of which 85% could be assigned to chromosomes. The assembly covers a large proportion of the repetitive sequence content that was estimated to be 63%. We predicted 27,421 protein-coding genes supported by transcript data and annotated them on the basis of sequence homology. Phylogenetic analyses provided evidence for the separation of Caryophyllales before the split of asterids and rosids, and revealed lineage-specific gene family expansions and losses. We sequenced spinach (Spinacia oleracea), another Caryophyllales species, and validated features that separate this clade from rosids and asterids. Intraspecific genomic variation was analysed based on the genome sequences of sea beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima; progenitor of all beet crops) and four additional sugar beet accessions. We identified seven million variant positions in the reference genome, and also large regions of low variability, indicating artificial selection. The sugar beet genome sequence enables the identification of genes affecting agronomically relevant traits, supports molecular breeding and maximizes the plant's potential in energy biotechnology.