Agronomy V - Oil Crops

Oil Crops, learn how edible and industrial oils are extracted from crops.

Course CodeBAG312
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn to Grow Oil Crops

  • Broaden the range of crops you are considering for farm planting
  • Diversify your source of farm income
  • Expand your knowledge and awareness of farm crop production as a supplier of services or goods to farms

Products grown using oil crops can be used for a variety of purposes including food, biofuels, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning products and much more. Plant based oils are in high demand around the world, with more than 200 million metric tons of edible oils produced annually.

Who is this course for?

  • A farmer hoping to diversify their crops,
  • Farm workers wanting to upskill
  • Anyone new to the industry - on or off farm
  • Investors, service providers, consultants,  students or anyone else with an interest in learning more about growing oil crops


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Nature & scope of oil crops
    • What are plant oils?
    • Essential oils
    • Plant oil crops & uses
    • Vegetable oil uses
    • Essential oil uses
    • Economic value of oil crops
    • What crops can be grown where?
  2. Oil extraction
    • Introduction
    • Oil seed processing
    • Mechanical processing
    • Chemical processing
    • Other processing methods
    • Distillation
    • Simple distillation
    • Steam distillation
    • Fractional distillation
    • Vacuum distillation
    • Molecular distillation
    • Extractive distillation
    • Membrane distillation
  3. Canola and rapeseed
    • Characteristics of canola
    • World production
    • Growing canola
    • Using seed
    • Soil types
    • Soil preparation
    • Sowing
    • Growth stages
    • Environmental stresses
    • Nutrition
    • Irrigation management
    • Weeds
    • Pest control
    • Diseases
    • Harvesting
    • Storage
    • Processing
  4. Olive oil
    • Characteristics of olive oil
    • World production
    • Growing olives
    • Using seedlings
    • Soil types
    • Soil preparation
    • Planting
    • Pruning
    • Growing conditions
    • Varieties
    • Nutrition
    • Irrigation management
    • Weeds
    • Pest control
    • Diseases
    • Organic production
    • Harvesting
    • Storage
    • Processing
  5. Other edible oils
    • Growing conditions
    • Organic matter
    • Soil texture
    • Subsoil PH
    • Soil water available to plants
    • Slope of the topography
    • Natural soil drainage
    • Maintaining good soil structure
    • Growing edible oil crops
    • Sunflowers (helianthus annuus)
    • Flax/linseed (linum usitatissimum)
    • Soybean/soya bean (glycine max)
    • Peanuts (arachis hypogaea)
  6. Herbal and pharmaceutical oils
    • Introduction
    • Pros and cons of herbal medicine & nutraceuticals
    • Essential oils
    • General guidelines for growing herbs for essential oils
    • Planting
    • Agronomy
    • Improved herbs and essential oils
    • Growing select crops for cosmetic or pharmaceutical oils
    • Avocado (persea americana)
    • Mint (mentha arvensis)
    • Tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia)
    • Blackcurrant (ribes nigrum)
    • Passionfruit (passiflora edulis)
  7. Biofuel and other industrial oils
    • Biofuel production
    • Vegetable oils and genetic modification
    • Extraction of oils from plants
    • GMO crops
    • Oleic acid
    • Oil palm trees
    • Novel fatty acids
    • Chemical and biotechnological transformations of basic industrial oils
    • Key targets for future industrial oil crops
    • Unusual fatty acids
    • Industrial importance
    • Growing select crops for biofuels and other industrial uses
    • Poppy (papaver somniferum)
    • Castor bean (ricinus communis)
    • Camelina (camelina sativa)
    • Crambe (crambe abyssinica)
  8. Issues, Risks, Optimising success
    • Successful farming
    • Capital
    • Profitability
    • Risk management
    • Succession
    • Entrepreneurial skills of farmers
    • Production management
    • Developing a farming business plan
    • Goals and mission
    • Asset planning
    • Land
    • Irrigation water
    • Livestock
    • Farm management
    • Labour and machinery
    • Capital
    • Soil testing
    • Produce selection
    • Integrated pest management
    • Integrated weed management
    • Grain storage
  9. Product development and management
    • Oilseed production and extraction yields
    • Oil fatty acid composition and biodiesel
    • Oil extraction and biodiesel processing
    • On-farm oil seed processing

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Discuss the scope and nature of farming plants to produce oils or oil rich products.
  • Explain how oils can be extracted from plants.
  • Explain how to farm canola and rapeseed.
  • Explain how to farm olives for oil production.
  • Discuss agronomic farming and production of other edible oils for human and animal consumption.
  • Discuss agronomic farming and production of a range of oils for cosmetic and medicinal use
  • Discuss agronomic farming and production of plant oils for industrial and biofuel applications
  • Analyse issues that impact success or failure of a plant oil production enterprise
  • Formulate a plan for development and management of a plant oil production enterprise.

Choosing What To Grow and How to Grow it

Farming an oil crop can be profitable, but only if you make the right choices about what to grow, when, where and how to grow it.

The viability of farming as a business depends upon making those choices; and undertaking this course can make a significant difference to making better choices.

When considering growing any crop for plant oils, it is important to consider costs of production and processing. You might be considering integrating oil crops into an existing farm growing system by way of crop rotations, or perhaps changing direction towards growing only oilseed crops. Maybe you have plans to start a new oilseed farm or you are a farm manager looking at new opportunities. Whatever the situation, having a good idea about costs is necessary to minimise risks and make wise decisions.  

Learn to evaluate costs and returns from feedstock production, oilseed crushing, and biodiesel processing. The potential of oilseed feedstocks: canola, flax, camelina, yellow mustard, sunflower, and safflower will be assessed for productivity, production costs and revenues.  

Consider the cost of production, yield, technical parameters, and market prices.  Consider external factors such as social costs and trends such as changing political, financial and legal factors. Biofuel production for example only achieves economic feasibility when the social cost is included in analysis.  A central motivation for government biofuel policy is reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, by shifting to renewable energy sources.


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