Tuesday, 15 May 2007


Photo:Rape crop in Newtowncunningham

There are a few crops that are set to alter the lanscape of Ireland over the coming years. Three favoutites are Rape, Flax and Elephant grass. All of these plants are set to make a huge impact on the land as the populartiy of alternative energy grows.

Rape (Brassica napus), is a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family). Rapeseed is very widely cultivated throughout the world for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and more than ever, biodiesel. It is also grown to protect the soil in winter and as a green manure.

The start of construction for Ireland’s first large-scale biodiesel production facility, at New Ross in County Wexford took place on the12th April, which if successful will start a chain of similar projects throughout the country. Green Biofuels Ireland intends to commence production of biodiesel from oil seed rape, recovered vegetable oil and animal fats in 2008. The raw materials for the biodiesel production will be sourced principally from the company’s shareholders as well as the Wexford Farmer’s Co-op, which has 4,000 farmer shareholders.

Flax (linum). Flax is grown both for its seed and for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used to make fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap. The seeds produce a vegetable oil known as linseed oil or flaxseed oil. It is one of the oldest commercial oils, and solvent-processed flax seed oil has been used for centuries as a drying oil in painting and varnishing.

Elephant grass, (Miscanthus giganteus) or "E-grass", has been trialed as a biofuel in Europe since the early 1980s. It can grow to heights of more than 3.5 m in one growth season. Its dry weight annual yield can reach 25t/ha (10t/acre). The rapid growth, low mineral content and high biomass yield of Miscanthus make it a favorite choice as a biofuel. After harvest, it can be burned to produce heat and power turbines. The resulting CO2 emissions are equal to the amount of CO2 that the plant used up from the atmosphere during its growing phase, and thus the process is greenhouse gas neutral.

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