The Czechia was flooded with yellow. As every year at this time. The nation was divided into those who do not care and those who hate rapeseed. Is it good or bad? Does this crop have more positives or negatives and why is it such a much sought after commodity?


Look for regulation behind everything

Oilseed rape (Brassica napus) has been grown in our country for a relatively long time. A major turning point came with the accession to the EU. The Union has committed all members to use at least 10 % biofuels out of total fuel consumption by 2020. The Czech Republic fulfills this obligation only by mixing rapeseed oil methyl ester and bioethanol into diesel and petrol. This was the main reason for the boom in rapeseed cultivation. Thanks to regulations, biofuels have become tax-advantaged and the "yellow evil" is still relatively profitable for farmers. Although everyone has long known that biofuels are much more harmful than conventional fuels. 

Yellow is not eco

Biofuels were originally a deserving idea that was born in response to rising oil prices. Efforts were also made to reduce emissions. However, biodiesel production will result in up to 70 % more greenhouse gases. According to the multinational environmental association Transport & Environment, biofuels from oilseed rape have even 1.2 times worse emission values of carbon dioxide compared to fossil fuels. The question is how high canola production will be in 2021, when these EU regulations and all tax breaks will cease to apply. Unless they come up with new ones.

Insert rapeseed… into the boiler

Oilseed rape has a wide range of technical uses. It is used to produce lubricating oils, varnishes, detergents, and feed for livestock. It has also proven to be a great material for making pellets. Oilseed rape pellets are cheaper and hotter than wood pellets and their combustion does not produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, a boiler for this type of pellets is more expensive than boilers for other fuels. Rich use outside the food industry has paradoxically become the biggest curse of this crop - farmers do not look at the amount of chemistry used in its cultivation. And that canola really needs her a lot…

Sensitive even to a perjury

In the light of cultivation practices, rape is a great crop in itself. It contains a lot of nutrients. It has a deep root system that enriches the soil rather than depleting it. All the more so because the harvest mainly concerns the upper part with seeds and the rest of the plant is plowed into the ground as an organic fertilizer. However, winter rape grown in our country is a bit of a hypochondriac and is susceptible to about 50 different diseases and pests. So he needs really copious sprays. However, most of the means used are leached into the ground and subsequently into the water, where they support the formation of cyanobacteria on water bodies and ecological groundwater pollution in the landscape. Nevertheless - according to data from Eurostat, the Czech Republic surprisingly has one of the smallest consumption of pesticides in the Union.

Canola, where do you look?

Within a few years, 100,000 hectares became 400,000 hectares sown with rapeseed. It is grown in our country on about 20 % of all arable land. Her biggest misfortune is the fact that she is yellow and does not smell, so everyone will notice her. For example, winter wheat is grown on almost 750,000 hectares in our country, but it is green and no one notices it. And it is far from even for Czech use, but rather for export. Last year, an estimated 1,300,000 tons of rapeseed were harvested in our country, of which about half was used for the production of biofuels, less than 400,000 tons were used for food purposes and another 183,000 tons of seed were imported to us! 

Healing properties of rapeseed

Although unsaturated fatty acids promote the development of myocardial disease, surprisingly, this plant also has positive properties. Some substances in it activate enzymes that detoxify carcinogens from food, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.

What the bees won't tell you

And what about honey? A few years ago, experts confirmed that the pesticides that rapeseed needs for their lives are life-threatening for bees. However, the case has been somewhat erupted by the regulation that farmers are obliged to inform beekeepers about the intended spraying of rape 48 hours in advance and prefer to do so at night so that the bees are hidden in the hive. By morning, many bees harmful to bees will disappear and everything is fine. However, if farmers pay attention to the regulation and spray it as it should, and not whenever they want. And unfortunately, bees love rapeseed, because it is one of the largest flowering areas in the spring. There is nectar from oilseed rape in almost every flower honey, only the producers do not declare it out of caution, because for some reason people would not want to buy it. Oilseed rape honey is very tasty. 

However, other animals are no longer so happy with "oil" - varieties with a higher content of glycosinulates cause greater blindness, disorientation and death within a few days, especially in deer and big game. These are newer varieties that do not contain erucic acid and mustard essential oil for better technological use. Unlike older varieties, they are not bitter and the animals taste good. Especially in spring, when the snow disappears and the leaves of young rape are the first tasty pasture. Oilseed rape thus has the largest share in the mortality of roe deer - blindness comes immediately, the game is confused, disoriented, runs under the wheels of cars and hits fences.

Allergy sufferers are also wrong

Surprisingly, rape is not even a significant allergen. Rapeseed pollen does not spread over long distances, because pollen grains are heavy, clump and rather fall to the ground. What you see all around are mainly pollen grains of birches and other trees. Allergy sufferers therefore encounter rapeseed pollen only in close proximity to the fields. The occurrence of an allergy only to rape is the (yellow?) Exception in the human population. 

Despite all efforts, it seems that rapeseed is not the greatest evil in our country. Monocultures of corn and cereal fields are a much worse ecological disaster that farmers do not pay much attention to. Like pollutants, rape also contains beneficial substances, and the only (and biggest) negative is only its need for chemical spraying. The unpopularity of this crop is rather associated with political names and a strong color, which makes it unmissable. We can only hope that the EU (or the state?) Will financially support other crops as well, and that our fields (agricultural and political) will be colored in a whole range of different colors.


"Within a few years, 100,000 hectares became 400,000 hectares sown with rapeseed"

Photo: istock.com