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You are entering the Duckweed Zone

February 20, 2012
My first glimpse of duckweed

Duckweed yearns for its day in the sun…

It’s been a fascinating journey these past three years of researching the most under-utilized and least appreciated plant on the planet- duckweed. I became aware of it after mistaking it for some form of floating algae  under a microscope. I was told by an aquatic biologist that this tiny plant had amazing qualities including a high protein content, that it grew almost as rapidly as algae, and could clean up wastewater very efficiently.

Fascinated, I began to purposely grow it in cups, bowls, and buckets in my home, migrating to outdoors when the weather warmed up.  I began  experimenting with garden applications and networked with fellow enthusiasts around the world. I have traveled across the US, to China and Guyana, consulting and give presentations on the subject.

This tiny, green water plant has the unique history of being either passionately loved or hated for its ability to double its weight every 24 to 48 hours. It has the unfortunate distinction of being labeled, “biofire” and is seen as a blight on our lakes and ponds,. Still, it is revered by researchers for its ability to soak up waste nitrogen,phosphorus, and even heavy metals like a sponge in polluted water. NASA researchers have even been  looking into it recently as a wastewater remediator.

In the presence of sufficient nitrogen, duckweed rivals soybeans for protein content and quality. It produces Omega 3’s which makes for a healthier egg with a  deeper colored yolk when fed to laying hens. I have found over seventy uses for it ranging from fresh or dried animal feedstock, to a great compost ingredient, to grey water remediator, to even applications as an art form! I’m looking forward to sharing with you how to grow it in your garden settings to recapture waste nutrients that are leaching from your soil or waste sources and reap the benefits of a truly sustainable, versatile crop that will change the way you garden forever.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2013 2:57 am

    Usually I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do so!


  2. July 23, 2013 8:11 am

    Ricky, I’m not an fisheries expert but you could feed out tilapia solely on duckweed and algae but would have better yields if you went for duckweed as part of a total feed regimen. Or at least that’s the latest reports. Study results vary. Try your questions on the LInkedIn Group: International Lemna Association . “Duckweed needs too much space to grow for it to be practical for most people:” leads to interesting thoughts… If all you had was a pet turtle- growing enough duckweed for turtle treats means you grow it in a teacup. If you had 100 chickens, you’d have to scale up to a 4×50 ft pond and then only supplement up to 20% of their feed rations with duckweed. If you wanted to produce biofuel from duckweed, you’d have to scale up further to many hectares of ponds. It’s all relative to your situation. The same could be said for growing wheat or potatoes for your family.
    You could get away with stacking see through plastic containers,but the lower stacks would not grow as fast. It’s all about how many photons of light hit each cell in each duckweed frond.Now you COULD grow it in the dark and use special sugar/water/nutrient solutions that bypass the photosynthesis route. Then all needs to be really sterile because any bacteria will take advantage of the conditions and outcompete the duckweed for nutrient availability. Not a pretty picture as all kinds of unwanted outcomes occur.
    Water depth outdoors depends on temperatures, wind, etc…I’ve successfully grown duckweed in 2 inches of water outdoors, but it was not as happy as it likes water temps in the lower 70’s. Shallow water heats up much faster than deeper water. I now use two to three and a half feet of water, depending on the circumstances.
    Great questions!


  3. Ricky permalink
    July 22, 2013 6:31 am

    Do you know how much dry duckweed by weight is required to feed 1 adult tilapia? I was told that duckweed needs too much space to grow for it to be practical for most people. Is it possible to grow duckweed in see thru plastic containers stacked one on top of another? What is the depth of water required by duckweed? Thank you in advance.


  4. March 6, 2012 11:26 am

    I really treasure your piece of work, Great post.


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