Friday, April 10, 2009

Duckweed, A Humble Aquatic Plant Makes Big

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Duckweed, a small aquatic plant familiar to most aquarists. When I kept my aquariums I used to love duckweed - a healthy duckweed population meant a healthy tank. It floats on the surface, supplies places for the babies to hide, provides nutrition for the fish, and helps reduce evaporation of the tank.

Duckweed also reproduces very efficiently with every little piece that breaks off becoming a new plant. It reproduces very quickly too and is usually thinned out of aquariums and ponds by the handful because if it becomes too dense, the pieces can clog up any working parts - literally.

In the wild, duckweed is an important food source for water fowl.

Now researchers from North Carolina Sate University say that duckweed can also be used to clean up waste water at industrial pig farms as well as being used as a good feed stock for biofuels.

When grown in nutrient-rich wastewater (industrial farming operations and/or municipal wastewater), duckweed can produce 5-6 times the starch per acre as corn does. Since it can be processed in the same facilities that corn is, the start-up and/or switch-over costs should be minimal.

Researchers are suggesting that a duckweed production system would consist of shallow ponds potentially built on lands unsuitable for other crops. The duckweed stage would clean the water to such a degree that it could be re-used for other purposes.

A pilot-scale project is currently being established to further investigate the potential of duckweed for both water treatment and biofuels.

I just love it when a solution can be found that is 100% natural.

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