Rapeseed, also known as rape, oilseed rape, is a bright-yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae, cultivated mainly for its oil-rich seed. It is the third-largest source of vegetable oil in the world
Today, rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feed, edible vegetable oils, and biodiesel; leading producers include the European Union, Canada, China, India, and Australia. It is the world's second-leading source of protein meal after soybean.
The Food and Agriculture Organization reports 36 million tons of rapeseed were produced in the 2003–2004 season, and estimated 58.4 million tons in the 2010–2011 season. In Europe, rapeseed is primarily cultivated for animal feed, due to its very high lipid and medium protein content.
Natural rapeseed oil contains 50% erucic acid. Wild seeds also contain high levels of glucosinolates, chemical compounds that significantly lowered the nutritional value of rapeseed press cakes for animal feed. In North America, the term "canola"—a contraction of Canada and ola, meaning oil - became widely used to refer to rapeseed. The rapeseed is the harvested component of the crop. The crop is also grown as a winter cover crop. The plant is ploughed back in the soil or used as bedding. On some organic operations, livestock such as sheep or cattle are allowed to graze on the plants.
Rapeseed was discovered to have a rate of uptake up to three times more than other grains, and only about 3 to 6% of the radionuclides go into the parts of the plant that could potentially enter the food chain. As oil repels radionuclides, canola oil free from contaminants being concentrated in other parts of the plant could be produced. The rest of the plant (straw, roots, seed pods, etc.) could then be recycled by ploughing back into the soil.