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Canola: Chemistry, Production, Processing, and Utilization

Canola: Chemistry, Production, Processing, and Utilization

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Canola: Chemistry, Production, Processing, and Utilization

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Aug 13, 2015


This book gives a complete picture of the canola crop including its history, botany, genetics, distribution, breeding and biotechnology, production, processing, composition, nutritional properties and utilization of the seed, oil and meal, as well as an economic profile. While the main focus in this book is on canola of Canadian origin, its cousin crop oilseed rape will also be discussed to a lesser extent. The work provides up-to-date information on the crop and highlights areas where research and development is either needed or is in process.
  • Provides extensive information on the canola plant, including breeding, genetic engineering for trait development, and seed morphology and composition
  • Editors and contributors are global leaders in canola research and application
  • Offers a comprehensive overview of canola oil and meal composition, nutrition, and utilization
Aug 13, 2015

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  • A Canadian-based biodiesel industry will be able to source all feedstocks but will include high levels of canola because of its quality standards and its characteristics that make it uniquely suited to biodiesel production.

  • The story of the development of rapeseed and eventually canola in Canada is prob- ably the key story in the modern development of rapeseed as the world’s second most important oilseed (Anon., 1992; Downey, 2006).

  • In addi- tion, biodiesel production and use also decreases greenhouse gas emissions by between 85% and 110% per unit of fossil diesel displaced.

  • Results of a life-cycle analysis concluded that canola-derived biodiesel combustion produces less partic- ulate matter while reducing carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions.


Canola - Elsevier Science



We are pleased to offer students, researchers, industry practitioners, and all who are interested in the world’s second most important oilseed, a comprehensive book on canola: Canola: Chemistry, Production, Processing, and Utilization. This is one of a number of books in the AOCS Monograph Series on Oilseeds published by AOCS Press of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. These books present the latest detailed information on plant sources of fats, oils, and protein meals that are essential for feeding the world and providing the many bio-based products we consume every day.

Canola is complex in nature and includes seed from several species—Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa L. and Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. The use of these species as a source of oil has a long history dating back at least 4000 years. The history of canola, however, is more recent and dates from the early 1970’s when the fatty acid composition and glucosinolate content of rapeseed was changed resulting in canola, today’s source of healthy oil and nutritious protein meal. Canola has been known as the Cinderella crop, rising from rapeseed, a relatively minor oilseed, to become the world’s second most produced oilseed and the third largest source of oil. The health benefits of canola oil have been recognized by several leading associations as well as by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which allows a health claim for this oil, making it unique among the major oils in world production. Canola is also flexible in nature, able to be used as a food oil, as biodiesel, and especially, as high erucic acid rapeseed (HEAR), for oleochemicals. Canola is one of the crops most amenable to biotechnological transformation, and almost anything is possible. While canola was developed in Canada, research on the brassica oilseeds has been carried out worldwide. The authors of this work have included information not only from Canada but also from many other countries in which rapeseed and canola are grown.

This book has been designed as a complete reference source for this crop, from the information contained in the chapters to the reference sources included. Some chapters in the book are modeled on several earlier works, in particular Appelqvist, L. A. & Ohlson, R.; Rapeseed: cultivation, composition, processing, and utilization; Elsevier Publishing Co., New York, 1972, a book that still has value as a reference for rapeseed crops. The editors have a combined 150 years experience working with rapeseed and canola and have carefully chosen the contributing authors to give a blend of experience and new ideas.


Origin, Distribution, and Production

James K. Daun,     AgriAnalytical Consulting, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada


Canola and rapeseed belong to one of the most widespread of cultivated plants—the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferae). The crops of this plant family are remarkable for their diversity in morphology and in use. People probably began using them originally as potherbs because of their pungent flavor. Cultivation and selection led to the development of the common brassica vegetables of today, including cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, brussels sprouts, and radishes and their relatives.

All brassicas produce small, round seeds in siliques or pods, but they differ enormously in seasonality, morphology, seed size, seed color, and chemical composition. The seeds are used as a source of vegetable oil, protein meal, and as a spice. The uses of the oil and meal vary greatly. The oil may be used for edible oils, fine chemicals, efficient fuels, and lubricants. Meal uses range from fertilizer to high-quality animal feed or functional protein. The seed itself is used as a spice or condiment and as a high-energy animal feed.

Although this book will focus on canola, some attention will also be given to other brassica species that are used as oilseeds, especially those in the rapeseed and mustard group. All brassicas cultivated for use of the seed oil are sometimes referred to as rapeseed, whereas the brassica plants cultivated for using the seeds as spice are often summarized under the name mustard. Within the brassica oilseeds canola is defined as brassica species having a seed oil that must contain less than 2% erucic acid, and the solid component of the seed must contain less than 30 μmol of any one or any mixture of 3-butenyl glucosinolate, 4-pentenyl glucosinolate, 2-hydroxy-3-butenyl glucosinolate, and 2-hydroxy-4-pentenyl glucosinolate per gram of air-dry, oil-free solid (Canola Council of Canada, 2009). Rapeseed and mustard are general terms and may vary in their definition depending on the part of the world in which they occur (Table 1.1). Brassica napus L. (Fig. 1.1), Brassica rapa (campestris) L. (with the three subspecies oleifera, trilocularis, and dichotoma) (Fig. 1.1), Brassica juncea (L). Czern. (Fig. 1.1), Brassica carinata A. Braun, and Eruca sativa (Mill.) are all species included in the definition of rapeseed and mustard grown for the purpose of obtaining vegetable oil (ISO, 2002).

Table 1.1

Common Names for Rapeseed and Mustard.

Fig. 1.1 Botanical drawings of the major species included in canola. 1.1a. Brassica napus L. ssp. napus: (b) lower cauline leaf; (c) fruiting stem; (d) flower; (e) flower, petals removed; and (f) seeds. 1.1b. Brassica rapa L. ssp. oleifera (DC.) Metzg: (a) flowering stem; (b) lower cauline leaf; and (c) siliqua. 1.1c. (a) flowering stem with young fruits; (b) lower cauline leaf; (c) flower; (d) siliqua. Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. ssp. juncea. Source: Cruciferae: Brassica and Raphanus, 2001, pp 1435-1465 and 1476-1481, Hanelt P. and Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Diederichsen A., Figs. 101, 102, 103, 104a, 104b, 104, 105, 106, 107, and 108. With kind permission of Springer Science+Business Media.

Region of Origin

To understand the origin of rapeseed, it is useful to have an understanding of the relationship between the different seed oil species belonging to the genus Brassica (Fig. 1.2). The triangle of U, named after the Japanese scientist who first illustrated it, shows three basic species, B. nigra, B. oleracea, and B. rapa (campestris), with chromosome numbers 8, 9, and 10 on the corners of the triangle. Hybridization between these species gave rise to the other species, B. carinata, B. juncea, and B. napus (U, 1935). Although this hybridization can be made artificially, the actual hybridization was done by nature many years ago.

Fig. 1.2 The triangle of U ( U, 1935) showing the genetic relationship between the different brassica species.

The brassica family is concentrated in temperate areas with its maximum diversity in the Mediterranean, North Africa region. The origin of the different cultivated species is not clear (Kimber & McGregor, 1995). The small seed size coupled with oil and protein content make them attractive to birds and thus they are easily spread as birds migrate and move. B. rapa is believed to be the oldest of the species because it has the widest distribution. Over 2000 years ago it could be found from Europe across to China and Korea and from Norway to north of the Sahara and into India. Europe and the Himilayan areas of India have been proposed as centers of origin (McNaugtton, 1976a). B. napus is derived from a hybridization of B. rapa and B. oleracea. The origin of B. oleracea is likely the Mediterranean area, although wild populations occur on the coasts of Britain and the Bay of Biscay (McNaugtton, 1976b). It is believed that B. napus originated in southern Europe and was introduced into Asia in the early 18th century. The Middle East and central Asia and China have been suggested as sites of origin for B. juncea (Prakash & Chopra, 1996) and independent hybridization at the secondary centers of India, China, and the Caucasus possibly occurred. The center of origin for B. nigra is thought to be the Middle East (Hemingway, 1976; Sauer, 1993), but this crop was used as a spice from very early times and it probably travelled quickly to secondary centers. B. carinata is believed to have originated in Northeast Africa, where the B. nigra and B. oleracea species overlapped. Eruca sativa probably originated in India and also moved to China. It is still grown as an oilseed crop in both areas; whereas, in other parts of the world it is grown as a spice or vegetable crop (rocket salad or arugula).

History of Use

Brassica plants were probably first used as potherbs and vegetables and their seeds first used as spices and condiments because of their hot flavor. Neolithic evidence suggests that B. nigra seeds probably joined agriculture as volunteer weeds in wheat and barley fields. It was probably the use of seeds as spices or potherbs that resulted in some of the migration of these species around the world, although the presence of adventitious admixtures of B. nigra in cereal grains was the mechanism by which this crop, and possibly other brassica seeds, reached the New World at the time of the Spanish Conquest.

Utilization of brassica crops as a source of vegetable oil probably occurred much later than their use as a spice, potherb, or vegetable. There is definite evidence of the utilization of brassica plants in Neolithic times. Carbon dating of rapeseed from the Banpo excavation in Xian, China, suggests that the earliest cultivation of rapeseed in China may date back as much as 7000 years. Evidence of the use of mustard crops occurs in Sanskrit writings from as far back as 1500 BC and Chinese writings as far back as 1122 BC. The use of mustard as a condiment and medicine is noted by European sources such as Pythagoras, Hippocrates, and Pliny with the earliest being about 500 BC.

B. rapa varieties, especially toria and sarson types, were probably the first brassicas grown as sources of oil. Sarson has been an important oilseed crop in India since at least 1500 BC. The oilseed types were probably introduced into China from India and from thence into Japan via the Korean peninsula. In China, the province of Gansu and surrounding areas were probably the first point where brassica seeds were cultivated and is a likely point of origin for B. rapa and possibly B. juncea. It still is a source of many wild brassica types.


Evidence that brassica seeds had been pressed for oil in India has been found in archaeological excavations dating back to 2000 BC. Sanskrit literature mentions an oil press as early as 500 BC but does not describe it (Achaya, 1994). A mortar and pestle system to press oilseeds and sugar cane (known today as the ghani [kolhu or chekku]) may date as far back as 1500 BC. Certainly a picture on a 13th century temple (Fig. 1.3) suggests that by 1200 the technology had been well established. Although the ghani was probably first used to extract oil from sesame seeds, its use on rapeseeds and mustard has a very long history. The use of village ghanis to obtain oil continued at least until the end of the 20th century but has declined despite government subsidies. Recently India and Pakistan invested heavily in the use of small-scale expellers in villages.

Fig. 1.3 Ghani processing of rapeseed in 13th century India. Source:

In China, although cultivation of brassicas for vegetable, herb, and condiment use has a very long history, extraction of the oil from the seeds occurred relatively recently, possibly as late as the 17th century CE. This is because the oil needed for cooking or lighting could easily be obtained from the relatively abundant supplies of animal fat (Huang, 2000). In Japan, oil pressing from hazelnuts (Corylus L.) and perilla (Perilla frutescens (L.) Britt.) and rapeseed date back to about the 3rd century CE. Wedge presses developed in Japan and China were commonly used by as early as the 10th century (Nagtsune, 1836).

Traditional brassica oilseeds in China, Japan, and the Indian subcontinent were B. rapa and B. juncea. B. napus was introduced to Japan in 1887, presumably from Europe during the period of industrialization in Japan.


Before the 1930s, the area of production devoted to rapeseed in China was similar to that in India. From 1934 to 1935, rapeseed plantings reached 2.5 to 3.5 million ha with the yield of 300–375 kg/ha using mostly landrace varieties of B. rapa and B. juncea. In 1934 to 1935, Japanese B. napus from Korea and in 1941 B. napus from the United Kingdom was introduced. In the period 1942–1948, a few papers on rapeseed hybrid vigor, breeding, and reproduction became the first scientific publications on rapeseed in China.

In 1953, rapeseed production started in southern China, resulting in the first project on collection, evaluation, and conservation of rapeseed landrace species (germplasm) (Ting-Dong, 1996). In 1960, the Oil Crops Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences was established in Wuhan to be responsible for oilseeds, including rapeseed. In 1972, the Polima cytoplasmic male sterility system was found and this became the dominant hybrid system for Chinese varieties.

In the early 1980s, single- and double-low rapeseed improvement projects were initiated. Double-low (canola-type) rapeseed varieties and hybrids were released and extended in production after 1985. Rapeseed production in China has continued to increase and there have been concerted efforts to switch from the traditional double-high types to canola types. The importance of China to the development of rapeseed was recognized through the holding of an International Rapeseed Congress in 2007.

The major winter production zones are found in its south, the lower, and middle reaches of the Yangtze River, the Sichuan Basin, the Guanzhong Plains, and the Huanghuai Plains. The winter rapeseed zones cover a greater area and produce more rapeseed compared with the spring rapeseed zones.


Brassica crops have a long tradition in India. It is believed that Aryans came to northwestern India around 1800 BC and learned the use of brassica oil from the original inhabitants. B. juncea is the major crop, occupying approximately 90% of the area under cultivation for brassica oilseeds. Botanists in the 19th century collected germplasm, taxonomically classified them, and described various species including the oilseed Sinapis ramosa, the vegetative S. rugosa, and S. cuneifolia, all now classified as subtaxa of B. juncea. The toria form (B. rapa ssp. dichotoma) was proposed as developing from hybridization between yellow sarson and brown sarson in Eastern Uttar Pradesh (Prakash & Chopra, 1996). Brassica improvement in India was initiated in about 1910. Since then progress in breeding and genetics, cytogenetics, and biotechnology has led to the development of varieties that contributed to increased production from 1 million t in 1910 to 6 million t in 2000–2005 (Table 1.2).

Table 1.2

World Production of Rapeseed: Five-Year Mean Production in Thousands of Tons.*

*Source: FAO and U.S. Department of Agriculture

The period from 1910 to 1950 was the foundation phase for brassica improvement in India in which landraces were collected, good lines were selected, and hybridization and cytogenetical research was initiated. The period between 1951 and 1980 was the traditional analysis and application phase for brassica development in India, including intense breeding activities and cytogenetic research for practical utilization. The period from 1981 onward is considered as the modern manipulation phase, including intensive investigation utilizing biotechnological approaches through exploitation of plant tissue culture, synthesis of an array of cytoplasmic male sterile (CMS) hybrids, the use of recombinant DNA techniques and molecular markers, cloning of genes, development of transgenics for various traits, construction of molecular maps, and identification of markers for various traits. In 1981, many improved varieties were released for cultivation. In 1989, a brassica hybrid development program was initiated under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Somatic hybrids in India have mostly been synthesized at the National Research Center of Plant Biotechnology, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, in New Delhi. The importance of India to the development of rapeseed was recognized by the GCIRC (International Rapeseed Research Association) by holding a Technical Meeting in New Delhi in 2009.


Brassica oilseeds also have a long history of use in Japan, paralleling the development of the crop in China. Historical records of rapeseed prices exist from the 1700s, and a description of oilseed pressing from the 1800s is very informative (Nagtsune, 1836). Rapeseed became an important oilseed crop in Japan, where rapeseed oil is valued for its nonspattering properties during deep frying and for other functional benefits (Downey, 2006). After World War II, domestic production of rapeseed was self-sufficient in Japan until the mid-1960s. Per capita consumption of vegetable oil at that time was only 18–20 g/day, and imports of oilseeds and oils were severely limited and controlled by a semigovernment organization. Most of the approximately 200,000 t of rapeseed produced at this time was processed by relatively small inland crushing facilities, close to the areas of production. In 1961, importation of soybeans was liberalized under pressure from the United States. This led to the dissolution of the organization controlling imports. This opened the door to imports of several oilseeds, and as a result of superior quality, imports of Canadian rapeseed replaced the domestic product by the 1970s. Small amounts of rapeseed have continued to be grown for edible vegetable uses, although there has been a recent movement to restore some rapeseed production for oilseeds in Japan, especially in view of concerns about genetically modified (GM) seed in Japan.

The level of imports of Canadian rapeseed and canola also followed a shift in Japanese vegetable oil consumption patterns. By 1980, per person consumption of vegetable oil had almost doubled to 38 g/day and it currently stands at 50 g/day. As a result, demand for vegetable oil increased and much of this was met by imports of canola and rapeseed from Canada. In 1980, 1 million t of rapeseed and canola were imported and in 1988, canola oil replaced soybean oil as the major vegetable oil used in Japan. This increase in importation of oilseeds resulted in the establishment of large seaboard crushing facilities and in the eventual demise of many of the smaller domestic crushing plants.

Japan’s interest in canola seed continues at the time of writing with Canada remaining the most important supplier and imports exceeding 2 million t. However, in recent years Japan has diversified its purchases of canola, with Australia becoming a regular supplier of canola to Japan and Europe an occasional supplier. The continued high quality of Canadian canola with respect to canola and rapeseed from other sources has meant that Canada has remained a valued supplier.


Use of brassica crops as vegetables, spices, and potherbs in Europe dates back at least to the Bronze age; their use as sources of oil, mainly soap-making and for illumination, did not occur until the Middle Ages, probably beginning in the 13th century (Appelqvist et al., 1972b). Cultivation of the oilseed types began north of the Alps because the olive staple oil crop in southern Europe could not be cultivated in northern Europe. Other oilseed crops such as linseed, hemp, and poppy were also grown in those regions. By 1421, tithe records show that rapeseed was being cultivated in Holland. Although rapeseed was prized as a lamp oil for its slow-burning and relatively odorless properties (it is still used in some sanctuary lamps today), there is evidence for its use as food, especially during Lent, according to writings of a 16th century Czech author. In Germany, a comprehensive account of winter rapeseed production in the Rhineland area dates from 1570 with the oil being used as a lamp oil, a cheaper alternative to olive oil, and as a cooking fat in a poor man’s kitchen.

Etymological studies suggest oilseed-type brassicas developed in Europe from the traditional root crops (Reiner et al., 1995). The old Dutch word raapzaad meaning picking up seed became the German raps and probably the English rapeseed, and the old German word ruobesamen became Rübsen. The Dutch word for kohlzaad, the seed of B. oleracea (once used as an oilseed), became colza in southern European languages. The words, or a similar form, are used throughout Europe (Table 1.1).

The great Swedish botanist Linnaeus gives a record of rapeseed occurring as a weed in Sweden in the mid-1700s but notes that oilseed plantings were common in Flanders and Braband as well as in other areas of north central Europe (Appelqvist et al., 1972b). Linnaeus did note the presence of two oil mills in Sweden in 1746, the first to process an experimental planting near the town of Alingsäs, which he noted was not particularly successful, and the second near Malmö, where 4–5 acres of seed were grown. The processing involved cooking the seeds in a copper pot and then crushing the seed in a horse-drawn pounding mill followed by wrapping the seeds in haircloth and pressing in a wooden press. Although the residual meal from linseed was used as feed for horses, the meal from the rapeseed was used as fuel for the cooking process. Linnaeus also gave details of the cultivation process. Rapeseed was used in a rotation with winter rye followed by barley, resulting in a significant increase in yield for the barley production compared with the local average.

Experiments carried out in the early 19th century showed the connection between oilseed rape and wild turnips. Metzger showed that you could make a wild turnip out of winter B. rapa by sowing the seed in good ground in the spring and loosening the earth around the roots to promote the tuber growth (Reiner et al., 1995).

The advent of the industrial revolution increased the demand for rapeseed oil in Europe. Oilseed rape production in Bohemia during the early 19th century was so great that seed was exported for processing and the resulting oil was imported back. The development of petroleum oils and gas for use in lighting, coupled with cheap imports of oils from colonies, resulted in a significant decline in the production and use of rapeseed oil in Europe. For example, production in France stood at 200,000 ha in 1862 but, as a result of cheap imports of oil from colonies, it had declined to less than 6000 ha by 1939 (Baranyk & Fábry, 1999). The development of the steam engine did provide a use for the naturally high erucic acid rapeseed oil as a lubricant for water-washed areas of these engines. Although rapeseed oil had a long history of use as cooking oil in Asia and the Indian subcontinent, its use as edible oil in Europe was restricted to poorer people or to use in times of shortage of other oils until after World War II (Kimber & McGregor, 1995). Production in Europe and use as a food oil increased dramatically during and after World War II (Engstrom, 1978) because importation of other sources of edible oils was restricted during the war and many countries wished to ensure their domestic supply of oils after the war. This production was stimulated by the agricultural policies of the European Union and in the controlled economies of Eastern Europe.


Rapeseed is one of the few oilseeds crops that can be cultivated in Scandinavia. Indeed, most Scandinavian cultivation, even of this cool-weather crop, occurs in Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden and Finland. The development of rapeseed as a crop in Scandinavia resulted from the development of the crushing industry, especially Karlshamns in Sweden and Raision Tehtaat and Oljynpuristamo Oy in Finland, along with the work of the breeding companies in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland (Svalof and Weibull in Sweden, Plant Breeding Station MARIBO, A/S L. Daehnfeldt, Pajbjergfonden and Danish Plant Breeding Ltd., in Denmark and the Agricultural Research Center of Finland, and the Hankkija Plant Breeding Institute in Finland). Researchers in Sweden especially carried out a great deal of research into rapeseed in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly at the Swedish Seed Association. The importance of this work was highlighted by the publication of a book on rapeseed (Appelqvist & Ohlson, 1972) that for many years was the standard text on this oilseed. A connection related to the development of canola occurred when a memorandum between the prime ministers of Canada and Sweden set up the Canada-Sweden Exchange on Rapeseed Science. This group, although relatively short lived, did sponsor some key meetings between scientists, including a meeting in Winnipeg at which analytical chemists developed a workable definition for glucosinolates in rapeseed (Daun et al., 1982). Sweden carried out a great deal of important early work on quality issues, especially in the area of chlorophyll and glucosinolates (Appelqvist et al., 1972a). Other key research from Scandinavia was carried out in the Chemistry Department at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark and at Raision Tehtaat and Oljynpuristamo Oy as well as the University of Helsinki in Finland. Scandinavia’s important contributions to the development of rapeseed were recognized by the International Rapeseed Congresses held in 1978 in Malmö, Sweden, and in 2003 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Scandinavia has also been a leader in the production of new products, including innovations in processing (Aronen & Vanhatalo, 1992), development of stanol margarines (Raisio), and novel green processing of rapeseed (Bagger et al., 1997).

Western Europe

In Western Europe, rapeseed has been cultivated mostly in Germany, France, Great Britain, and Austria. The development of the crop in Germany followed the need for the development of a domestic oilseed crop and, as in Scandinavia, rapeseed was ideally suited agronomically and was already cultivated. Companies like Lembke had been developing rapeseed varieties for years. The development of crushing facilities throughout the country and the European Union’s support policies also influenced increases in production. Before unification, production in Germany was divided reasonably equally between East and West. The principal research and development institutions were the Humboldt University Berlin, the University of Göttingen, the University of Giessen, and Bundesforschungsanstalt fuer Landwirtschaft in Braunschweig. In particular, researchers at Humboldt University in the early 1970s carried out valuable studies on the composition of rapeseed oil at different stages of refining whereas researchers at Giessen and Braunschweig developed important analytical techniques, especially for the analysis of glucosinolates in plant breeding and commercial samples. Researchers at Giessen also were responsible for the development of lines of double-zero winter rapeseed and of low-linolenic lines of rapeseed. The German Farmers Association (DBV) and the German Plant Breeders Association (BDP) founded the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants e. V. (UFOP). The contribution of Germany to the development of rapeseed was recognized by the International Rapeseed Congress in Giessen in 1974.

France has also been a long-time producer of rapeseed and has been the major producing country in Western Europe for many years. Most research in rapeseed has been carried out at the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) facilities in Dijon or Nantes or at the French Institute for Fats and Oils (ITERG) at Pessac. Development and evaluation of new varieties and agronomic studies are carried out by the Technical Center for Oilseed Crops (CETIOM), headquartered in Grignon with several testing centers throughout France, including a pilot plant at Pessac and a seed-testing laboratory in Ardon. CETIOM also provides the headquarters and secretariat for GCIRC. The contribution of France to the development of rapeseed was recognized by their hosting of International Rapeseed Congresses in 1970 and 1983. France played a major role in fatty acid nutrition, especially in the area of erucic acid and linolenic acid. France also contributed considerable research into the development of early double-low lines of winter rapeseed, known as La Nouvelle Colza.

Rapeseed, or oilseed rape, was a minor crop in the United Kingdom until the European Union subsidy program provided major stimulation in the early 1980s. This writer recalls giving talks about canola in Aberdeen and Inverness in about 1980 and being greeted with skepticism that the crop would ever become established this far north. About 5 years later, the writer noted the presence of large fields of oilseed rape on the Black Isle, north of Inverness. Although most U.K. production was the high-yielding winter type in the early years, more recently, spring type B. napus has become more popular. Significant contributions to the development of rapeseed crops in the United Kingdom were made by the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge, the Rothamstead Research Station, the Scottish Agricultural College, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, the John Innes Center, and the Institute of Food Research in Norwich. In addition to providing significant developments in new varieties and agronomic practices for oilseed rape in the United Kingdom, work on the analysis of glucosinolates carried out at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich was instrumental in the development of internationally recognized methods for the analysis of glucosinolates. The contribution of Great Britain to the development of rapeseed was recognized by the International Rapeseed Congress held in Cambridge in 1995.

Eastern Europe

Traditional rapeseed production in Eastern Europe centered around Poland, with other significant production in the former Czechoslovakia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc, production in other centers increased, and by 2010 significant production was also taking place in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Hungary, and the Baltic states, especially Lithuania.

Poland has played a significant role in the development of canola. The Polish B. napus variety Bronowski was found to have low levels of glucosinolates in 1967 by Jan Krzymanski working with Keith Downey in Saskatoon (Kondra & Stefansson, 1970). This variety, developed in Poland before World War II, served as the source of low glucosinolates genes used in the development of canola. Research in Poland has centered on the Plant Breeding and Acclimatization Institute in Poznan and the Cracow University of Technology. The importance of rapeseed to agriculture in Poland was underscored by the publication of a book on rapeseed technology (Niewiadomski, 1990) and the hosting of an International Rapeseed Congress in Poznan in 1987.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia (former Czechoslovakia) are major producers of rapeseed and stood fifth in European production on the eve of their entry into the European Union (Baranyk & Volf, 2003). Variety development in Czechoslovakia began in 1941 with landraces being grown previously. Low erucic acid conversion was completed by 1980 and a total changeover to double-zero lines was completed in 1992. Czech varieties have predominantly been adopted from other countries, although several Czech-developed lines were listed in a 1994 compilation (Baranyk et al., 1995). Czech rapeseed research has centered on the University of Agriculture in Prague with some important technological studies in the area of rapeseed processing coming from the Prague Institute of Chemical Technology. The Czech Republic’s contribution to rapeseed has been recognized by its hosting of the 2011 International Rapeseed Congress.

North America


The story of the development of rapeseed and eventually canola in Canada is probably the key story in the modern development of rapeseed as the world’s second most important oilseed (Anon., 1992; Downey, 2006).

Rapeseed and canola were unknown in Canada or other parts of North America until just before World War II. It is fairly well documented that the first rapeseed grown in Western Canada was some B. rapa grown in a kitchen garden near Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, by an immigrant farm family who brought over a handful of seed from Poland in 1928. During World War II supplies of rapeseed oil, which were needed to service steam and marine engines, were short in Canada. As a result, the Canadian government started a program to introduce the production of rapeseed in Western Canada. Because seed could not be obtained from Europe during the war, a supply of B. napus seed was obtained from Argentina. The two sources of seed, B. rapa from Poland and B. napus from Argentina, became the progenitors of all of the early Canadian varieties. The origin of the seeds also explains why the common names for the two species in Canada became Polish (B. rapa) and Argentinian (B. napus).

By then end of the war, a significant amount of rapeseed was being produced in Western Canada. Two crushing facilities, using soybean crushing technology from the United States, had been established—one in Saskatoon in the center of the prairies and one in Altona in the southeastern corner of the prairies. By 1950 the Canadian government, like many governments in Europe, was taking steps to ensure a secure local supply of vegetable oil. For Western Canada, many crops were being evaluated but four were predominant. Linseed was a traditional oilseed crop, but the highly unsaturated oil was too unstable to be used as edible oil. Soybeans did not mature rapidly enough for the Canadian prairies, and although sunflower seed was agronomically adapted to the southern prairies, especially in Manitoba, it was low in oil content and required special equipment for harvesting. The brassica oilseeds, and especially B. napus in the south and B. rapa in the north, were well adapted to the Canadian prairies and became the major oilseed crop over the next 20 years, providing not only a sufficient supply for domestic needs but becoming a significant export commodity, especially to Japan, where the superior-quality Canadian rapeseed coupled with a lower price than the Japanese domestic product, even when shipped halfway around the world, led to the end of domestic rapeseed production in Japan.

Gas chromatography, a Nobel-winning development of science that took place just about the time of the major Canadian emphasis on rapeseed, played a significant role in its development. One of the first uses of gas chromatography was to separate the different fatty acids present in fats and oils. When the Canadian government built its National Research Council center in Saskatoon and assigned it the task of assisting with the development of rapeseed as a crop, scientists there working with plant breeders at the University of Saskatchewan studied the genetics behind the fatty acid composition of rapeseed, particularly erucic acid. Although at that time there was no evidence that their fatty acid profile could be a health problem, there were concerns because it was different from the normal C18 fatty acids found in vegetable oils and because of the high levels of erucic acid (25% of the fatty acids in oils from B. rapa and 38% of the fatty acids in oils from B. napus (Carroll, 1962)). This work led to the development of the first low erucic acid variety, B. napus oro, in 1969 (Daun, 1983). Although this development was interesting, the variety had agronomic disadvantages coupled with some processing problems and did not become

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