Online oil crop production course. Learn growing, processing and management of plant crops for oil production - canola, rapeseed, olive oil, biofuels , pharmaceuticals and more.

Course Code: BAG312
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Grow Plants for their Oil Content

Oils are a big part of our economy, and a lot of the oils we use come from plants. Plant oils encompass:

  • Edible oils
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Industrial oils
  • Biofuels
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Herbal oils

Growing, processing and manufacturing products from oil rich plants can be a small or large scale business.

  • This course builds a better understanding of your options of what to grow
  • You explore different approaches to growing through to processing and marketing
  • You strengthen your capacity to make better decisions about growing oil crops, both for broad acre farming or for small scale cottage industry production

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

What can be produced?

Edible oils – for humans, pets or livestock

Biofuels – for energy production, powering machines, heating etc.

Oils for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, toiletries, paints, lubricants

This course explores them all and provides a good overview for making decisions about oil crops to grow and  ways of growing them.



Plant oils are any oils which can be extracted from plants, and oils are essentially fats. The name ‘plant oil’ is interchangeable with ‘vegetable oil’ and vegetable oil is the term most widely used. They are mainly extracted from seeds (hence they are often referred to as oilseed crops) but can come from fleshy parts of fruits. Although most plants contain oils, some contain a better quantity or quality of oil than others and are therefore considered the main oil crops. A small amount come from other plant parts like leaves, stems, or roots - such as burdock oil which comes from roots of the burdock plant. 

The name vegetable oil can also refer to the liquid oils such as those used in cooking. These oils are liquid at room temperature but can become solid if cooled. Most, but not all, vegetable oils are edible. On the other hand, mineral oils which are the other main group of oils, are inedible. These are mostly derived from petroleum. Whilst plant oils can replace mineral oils for some industrial uses, each oil group has specific advantages and disadvantages which makes them more, or less, preferable.  

Plant oils share the same characteristics as animal oils or fats. That is, they are comprised of triglycerides. Triglycerides are esters of glycerol and three fatty acids. They are often classified on the basis of being saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats contain mostly saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fats contain mostly unsaturated acids. Saturated fats are so-called because they are ‘saturated’ with more hydrogen atoms. Unsaturated fats can be further divided into polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. 

Most vegetable oils contain a combination of saturated and unsaturated acids. Those which are higher in saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature whereas unsaturated ones tend to be liquid. However, these unsaturated fats can be made into semi-solids or solids though the process of hydrogenation where they are combined with hydrogen effectively making them more saturated. Margarine is an example of a hydrogenated vegetable oil. One of the drawbacks of unsaturated fats is that they tend to become rancid more quickly. This is a reason why they are not preferred over mineral oils for machinery lubrication, for example. Also, in terms of nutrition, unsaturated fats have less energy, or calorific value, compared to saturated fats. So, if you wanted to lose weight you might prefer to fry your food in olive oil, but if you wanted to put weight on you could select margarine (or butter for an animal fat).   

Essential Oils
Another type of oil which comes from plants are those known as ‘essential oil’. Unlike vegetable oils, essential oils are not oils in the true chemical sense. They are not triglycerides but are volatile aromatic liquids that often contain hundreds of different aroma compounds. However, like vegetable oils, essential oils do not dissolve in water. They are termed ‘essential’ not because they are essential for a plant’s metabolic processes or for some other reason. Instead, essential refers to the fact that essential oils always contain an essence of the plant’s fragrance.  


This is a course for anyone interested in growing plants for their oils:
  • Farmers and Farm workers
  • Suppliers of goods,
  • Cottage industries and start ups growing plants to extract oils and manufacture product
  • Consultants, educators, writers, students, innovators, manufacturers, with an interest in plant oils
  • Anyone with a desire to learn more about oil crop production. 


Member of the Future Farmers Network

Member of the International Herb Association since 1988

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Accredited ACS Global Partner

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

Member of the Permaculture Association

Member of Study Gold Coast

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

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