On our first trip to Germany some years ago, my wife, our friends and I drove past magnificent fields of bright yellow plants and commented on their beauty. They were fields of rapeseed, Brassica napus. At first we guessed that these were fields of hops because, after all, we were in the homeland of the beer meisters.

Right now the German farmers are harvesting the rapeseed which has grown over the winter, like our winter wheat.  Yet, during it’s flowering time, the flowers have provided a great source of nectar for the honey bees, unlike the wheat plant.  That’s just one of many advantages of growing the rapeseed plant.

As with winter wheat, the harvested land can then be put to a second crop for the remainder of the growing season- a two-for-one land use. The seeds are the most valuable part of the plant and contain a high percentage of oil which can be used both for cooking oil [canola] and for biodiesel. In fact, rapeseed in the number one biodiesel ingredient throughout Europe because rapeseed produces more oil per unit of land area compared to other oil sources, such as soy beans or corn.

After the oil is squeezed for its oil content, the ‘press cakes’ provide a valuable animal meal as a by-product,  especially for cattle. Some cultures use leaves and stems of the plant as food.  This is especially popular in Asian cultures.

As we watch the unfolding of the BP oil well disaster on our TV screens, we may want to ask whether we want to risk even more of these man-made catastrophes in the future or whether we might consider other sources for our energy needs.  It seems to me that the cultivation of rapeseed may not only provide help in the energy market, but also it is also a valuable plant before and after the oil has been extracted.

Obviously the Germans already know that.  When will we catch on?


7 thoughts on “Rapeseed

  1. The Germans have been growing this stuff and making fuel with it for decades. My house was surrounded with the stuff as well as the walking paths I used. On the right days, there are so many bees, the entire field hums.

  2. Snake Hunter Sez,

    Mud.rake – On the very day you posted your comment we were off to No.
    Carolina Beach for a brief sojourn. Apparently, that commnet fell with a dull thud…only one comment. Try again? – reb

  3. Colza! We use it everyday and mix it with other oils for salads.
    It’s true that it is being used for fuel here in Europe. Converted Diesel engine farm machinery can be powered with it.

    The biggest problem with Rapeseed now, is Monsanto. The biggest problem bees all over the planet have is Monsanto. Rapeseed is a very cheap easily grown agricultural product with many uses, but OGM Rapeseed has to be banned!

    Hemp too…great source of oil and many other industrial uses…the industrial uses of hemp are being discovered and rediscovered after its years of being banned.
    Not all hemp is marijuana, but in the USA, until recently all hemp was classed as marijuana. Heck, the Italians grow hemp and use it in pastries.
    I did know a fellow in Toledo who brewed hemp beer back in the 60’s, but that was another story.

  4. Monsanto is a fucking criminal conglomerate…in my modest oppinion.
    As a matter of fact those scumbags were pushing the HR875 “food safety act” which gives the feds jurisdiction to regulate your flipping garden! Rep. Rosa DeLauro, is pushing this bill hard…most likely since her husband’s main client is Monsanto…who will certainly benefit the most via their “safe” gen-altered seeds.

  5. …which gives the feds jurisdiction to regulate your flipping garden!

    I think of all of those people sitting behind bars who are there because they grew or possessed marijuana while millions of Americans sit at bars and get a ‘legal’ buzz.

  6. My personal feeling is that no agricultural land should be used for fuel production and I don’t think we should be monkeying with the plant genome in order to increase productivity. I’m not entirely against monkeying with plant genes.. But when you roll them out in an uncontrolled agricultural setting – as part of a complex ecosystem that has a myriad degree of interdependence.. We are just asking for trouble. I think the key to bio energy is in synthetic algae or bacteria that can breath in CO2 and crap out H2, or C8H8. You can then keep those buggers in a controlled, sealed environment where they don’t interact with the rest of the ecosystem.

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