What Are Cole Crops?
Coal is one of the most abundant resources in the world. Coal is used for energy generation, industrial purposes, transportation and many other things. However, coal mining requires large amount of human labor which results in high unemployment rate. Coal mines have been closed down due to environmental concerns such as pollution or lack of access to water supplies. Other than these problems, coal is still considered a valuable resource.
Cole crops are plants grown from seeds that contain small amounts of coal. These plants grow faster and produce more biomass than regular crops.
They can be useful for farmers because they require less space and time to cultivate compared with conventional crops. Coley (2000) suggests that cole crop cultivation could reduce the need for additional land area by up to 30% (p. 5).
How To Grow Cole Crops?
The main difference between Cole Crops and other crops is that they are grown from seed. A farmer grows a seedling into a plant that will eventually become a tree or shrub. Once the seedlings mature, they are harvested and dried before being turned into pellets for use in power plants or sold to manufacturers. Because of their fast growth rates, cole crops can be planted at any time during the year. They are less sensitive to bad weather conditions such as prolonged drought.
When Are Cole Crops Grown?
Cole crops can be planted during different periods of the year. They can be planted in fall, winter, and spring. Each season has advantages and disadvantages for farmers who want to grow them. Cole crops grown in fall have the advantage of maturing before extreme temperatures appear (Coffey & McFall, 2003). The disadvantage of growing Cole crops in fall is that the ground may be too hard to plant. Cole crops grown during winter require protection from extreme cold. Cole crops grown in spring mature during warmer temperatures which can sometimes increase disease occurrence (Coffey & McFall, 2003).
Cole Crop Types
Common types of Cole crops cultivated for energy production are:
Black Grass Seed. This is a common type of Cole crop which is planted in large fields.
A mature Black Grass plant can produce a large amount of seeds known as poppy seeds. These seeds contain a small amount of coal which can be used for energy purposes (Poppy, n.d).
Cole crops grown in fields have the advantage of requiring little maintenance. They have the added benefit of improving soil quality.
Pine Trees. A large Cole crop that is often planted for the sole purpose of coal extraction is pine trees.
After the trees are mature, they are harvested and the pine needles are removed from branches (Pine Needles, n.d). The process of harvesting pine trees is very resource intensive and requires large amounts of time and labor.
Cotton plants are grown for both industrial and textile purposes. When cotton plants mature they produce a large amount of seeds which are used to make cotton.
These seeds contain a small amount of coal which can be used for energy production. Farmers grow large fields of cotton plants which take up a lot of space. Mature cotton plants are harvested and the seeds removed (Cotton, n.d).
Like the growth of pine trees, the growth of cotton plants requires large amounts of time and labor. For these reasons, many farmers prefer to use less land to produce more power.
Sugarcane is a Cole crop that contains a large amount of biomass. It is one of the most popular Cole crops grown.
A mature sugarcane plant can produce enough biomass to make 4,000 kWh of electricity. This amount of energy is enough to power a typical American home for a whole year (Sugarcane, n.d).
The growth of sugarcane plants requires large amounts of water. For this reason, they are usually grown in wet climates.
Cole crops have been instrumental in reducing the world’s dependence on non-renewable energy sources such as oil. The methods used to produce Cole crops can be divided into three general groups.
The first group consists of Cole crops grown for energy. These Cole crops include black grass, pine trees, and cotton plants. The second group consists of Cole crops that require little maintenance and grow quickly. These Cole crops include wheat, corn, and sunflowers. The third group consists of Cole crops grown primarily for food. These Cole crops include potatoes, rice, and soybeans.
The advantage of growing Cole crops for energy rather than food is that they require much less labor to grow. Farmers can plant large fields of Cole crops such as wheat or corn and only have to replant them every couple of years.
On the other hand, they have to plant and harvest Cole crops grown for energy every year. This requires much more labor and takes up much more space.
The advantage of growing Cole crops for food rather than energy is that they don’t require as much land to produce the same amount of biomass. Wheat, for example, only requires ¼ acre of land to produce a whole year’s worth of calories for one person (Raising Livestock, 2010).
By comparison, it takes 1 acre of land to produce a year’s worth of electricity for one person using black grass (Blackgrass, n.d). This means that 4 people can be fed by farming wheat with only 1/4 acre of land whereas they could only be supplied with electricity from Cole crops with 1 acre of land.
Because energy is needed in much smaller quantities than food, Cole crops grown for energy take up much more land than those grown for food. It has been suggested that food crops such as wheat, corn, and soybeans should be used as an energy source rather than Cole crops grown for energy such as black grass.
Wheat, for example, can be used to produce biofuel such as ethanol (Raising Livestock, 2010).
The main disadvantage of using food crops such as wheat to produce biofuel is that less food is available. If the world’s population continues to rise, and farmers are forced to use their land to produce biofuel rather than food, food shortages may become common.
The methods of growing Cole crops can also be divided into two broad categories: those that are best suited for commercial production, and those that are best suited for small-scale production. Cole crops grown for energy such as black grass are considered to be best suited for commercial production due to the cost of planting and harvesting the crop.
Cole crops grown for food such as wheat, on the other hand, are considered to be best suited for small-scale production due to their low demand for labor.
Cole crops are a vital source of food and energy. The methods used to produce Cole crops can be divided into three general groups: for energy, for food, and methods suited for commercial or small-scale production.
The type of Cole crop grown affects the method used to grow it. Furthermore, energy crops require large amounts of land whereas food crops take up much less. In the future, food crops such as wheat may become more important as an energy source rather than Cole crops such as black grass.
Sources & references used in this article:
Production of cole crops which exhibit triazine tolerance by RR Ayotte, PM Harney, VS Machado – US Patent 4,767,888, 1988 – Google Patents
Cole crops. by M Nieuwhof – Cole crops., 1969 – cabdirect.org
Cole crops. Botany, cultivation, and utilization. by M Nieuwhof – Cole crops. Botany, cultivation, and utilization., 1969 – cabdirect.org
… of host selection and oviposition behavior in the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella and its predator Chrysoperla carnea by chemical cues from cole crops by GVP Reddy, E Tabone, MT Smith – Biological control, 2004 – Elsevier
Bagrada hilaris (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), An Invasive Stink Bug Attacking Cole Crops in the Southwestern United States by DA Reed, JC Palumbo, TM Perring… – Journal of Integrated …, 2013 – academic.oup.com
Cole crop (Brassica oleracea) tolerance to clomazone by JE Scott, LA Weston – Weed science, 1992 – JSTOR
Exotic wildland weeds serve as reservoirs for a newly introduced cole crop pest, Bagrada hilaris (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) by AM Lambert, TL Dudley – Journal of Applied Entomology, 2014 – Wiley Online Library