Greg Roth, Professor of Agronomy in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, stands in a field of canola just down the road from Beaver Stadium. The planting is part of ongoing energy crop work. Other crops planted nearby are sugar beets and camelina.
Near the University Park Airport are 40 acres of canola now in full bloom. This stand of canola is part of a variety trial. The overcast day made the color so striking that drivers had a hard time passing by without long looks. One person stopped to inquire about the plants.
Don Rill, Research Associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, keeps track of these fields and monitors how the canola performs. He told me that each acre of canola will produce approximately 100 gallons of oil which can be converted to biodiesel fuel. Some quick math in my head lead to the next question, "Can a farmer grow enough fuel crop for their own fuel needs on the farm?".
Rill explained that Europeans have been experimenting with these crops and find that generally around 20 percent of a farmer's cropland would be involved in growing energy crops. To put some perspective on that statement he told me that is about the same ratio of croplands that used to be dedicated to the mules and horses that pulled plows and worked around a farm.
To find more information visit the Penn State Biomass Energy site.