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Duckweed Awareness is Growing

September 5, 2012

Lemna minor close-up

I’ve been tracking the term, “duckweed” via Google Alerts for a couple of years now. For a long time, I’d only get one or two hits a week, mostly complaints about duckweed taking over a city pond. These days, I see a minimum of five new pages a day. Duckweed isn’t winning any popularity contests yet, but that’s a 35x increase in the past two years! Plus, at least half of the hits are positive in nature.

I feel fortunate to be in contact with duckweed growers from around the world. They range from sustainablers here in the US (my term for those who have taken urban and rural homesteading into the 21st Century) to researchers, NGOs, and commercial-scale producers. We’re a small but mighty collection of pragmatic futurists who see the writing on the wall when it comes to our dwindling supplies of fresh water and non-renewables. Every one of us has gotten out our water-based, biodegradable felt tip markers and are writing our own Occam’s Razor solution on that same wall; DUCKWEED.

Duckweed strips grey or the blackest water of all available nutrients/contaminants and delivers clean water which can be reused over and over again. The high protein duckweed biomass can be used for hundreds if not thousands of uses in animal feed, industry, bioenergy, and fertilizers. Duckweed grows like crazy and is easily harvested and processed. What’s not to love?

Our duckweed trade association is growing with new members joining weekly. They hail from the US, S. America, Middle-East, Europe, and Far East. Every member contributes in their own way to making our organization strong.  We meet every Friday at 11:00am Central and all we talk about is what we’ve accomplished with our individual and joint projects with this amazing plant. Feel free to join us.

Actually, even one of our members, Eduardo Mercovich in Argentina is giving a TEDx talk on Friday about duckweed. Keep a lookout for him when the production broadcasts.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Munroe permalink
    September 14, 2012 12:39 pm

    Did you know that the duckweeds are in the PFAF (Plants for a Future) database? Lemna is here: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Lemna+minor

    There are other entries on the other species of duckweed.

    Among other facts, Lemna is hardy down to Zone 4, prefers neutral and alkaline soils (mine is acidic, maybe need to add a bit of lime), it has medicinal properties, and the dried plant repels mosquitoes.

    About the edibility: “Occasionally used as a vegetable[183]. No further details are given but we have found the flavour to be less than desirable[K].” I guess it depends on how hungry you are. Keep some hot sauce handy? (My friend Rita: If you can’t improve the taste, disguise it) During the Great Famine of Europe (1315-1317), starving people were pulling small blades of grass out of the ground and eating them. I’ll bet they would have gulped down duckweed by the handful.

    Sue

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  2. September 6, 2012 8:17 am

    Sue,sorry but the ILA site is down at the moment. Will they GMO duckweed? Sure. Will they tax it? Natch. The point is, for now, duckweed is an overlooked resource waiting to be discovered. What I love about it is that there is a window of opportunity here for farmers, municipalities, and urban homesteaders to employ the smartest natural remedy for water reclamation and protein production possible. Hang in there. Tomorrow will be a better day.

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    • Susan Munroe permalink
      September 6, 2012 12:59 pm

      I’m still working on my idea to cleanse/reuse duck-poopy wading pool water via running it through a plant filtering (incl. duckweed) system.

      In the beginning, the young ducklings were confined on lawn with the pool surrounded by temporary fencing, so all that was in the water was duck poop. Now they have more range, they are collecting and spitting food, soil and even small rocks into the pool. I hadn’t counted on this.

      My idea is changing to draining off the top water and running that through the filtering system, and draining the settled material on the bottom through a hole in the bottom of the pool, to be deposited in the compost pile.

      I still haven’t found any info on how long it takes any of the plant biofilters to absorb the nutrients, even in liquid form.

      If anyone has any bright ideas, be sure and let me know!

      Sue

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      • September 6, 2012 2:32 pm

        Duckweed generally takes 10 to 28 days as a bioremediator, depending on incoming condition of wastewater. Looks like you’ve probably got anaerobic action going on in the bottom of your duck pond, however minimal, just because of what the ducks are bringing to the equation. Maybe you need to do a water replacement of the entire water column instead of just the top surface. If you do that, then a secondary holding pond can let the heavy stuff settle and be drained off. Your top water layer can move onto your duckweed pond. If you put a series of baffles in the duckweed pond and batch it, then you can judge better on how long it will take to remediate your water.

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    • Libby permalink
      May 23, 2013 5:21 pm

      There is GMO and GMO – if you GMO a vaccine into duckweed (there have been groups of people working on this for bananas (dysentery vaccine doesn’t need refrigeration and can be grown in tropical areas). Better thought into this than something that encourages herbicides, pesticides and sheds pollen everywhere. Insulin growth in duckweed is also a possibility. If only research money could be as plentiful for these things as for badly thought out, comercial consumeristic ideas

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      • May 23, 2013 5:29 pm

        Thanks for the thoughts, Libby. There are many advantages to using controlled-setting duckweed over conventional species for GMO production for vaccines and the like
        .

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      • Susan Munroe permalink
        May 23, 2013 8:08 pm

        Libby: Do you know what the Number One problem with GMO “science” is?

        Answer: There has NEVER, EVER been a single long-term study on the long-term effects of genetically-modified plants or animals. The companies are rushing to create and sell GMOs without doing their homework. The big companies donate a TON of money to all of the agricultural colleges, and then if someone at one of them does a research or a paper on negative effects, that company is instantly at the desk of the college president, saying, “What’s wrong — don’t you like our money?”

        For those who aren’t familiar with the word, that is called ‘blackmail’. And that’s how GMO companies operate. They are mixing the DNA of humans, plants, animals, fish, toxins, bacteria, without understanding the long-term effects.

        THESE are the worst of the “badly thought out, comercial consumeristic ideas” you mention. I guess you need to do your homework, too. When in doubt, always follow the money. Start with Monsanto.

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        • May 23, 2013 8:47 pm

          Sue, I’m with you on indiscriminate GMO applications for foods, humans, animals. I do feel that select GMO work on bacteria to synthesize vaccines and insulin has saved many lives. Utilize duckweed for that purpose? I’m ok with that as long as it is a totally enclosed system and absolutely no duckweed gets released to the open environment. Same thing with algae, bacteria, etc…. Diabetics are a typical recipient of “good” GMO. There… I dared to say it.
          The politics of GMO is not a pretty picture as you clearly pointed out. Every industry that is flush with money has the power to wield the same tactics and more often than not- does. This one hits especially close to home as it threatens to disrupt our entire food and plant/animal chain with a Pandora’s box of unknowns. “Bad” GMO? It’s a huge risk compounded by a heavy-handed Big Brother approach. Even if it posed no risk at all, the latter is enough to make me hoard my heirlooms as god knows what new glow-in-the-dark tomato is going to be developed that pollinates with the wind on unsuspecting gardens across America.

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  3. Susan Munroe permalink
    September 5, 2012 5:03 pm

    I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Americans are trained to be “knee-jerk thinkers”: take a quick look, make a decision based on minimal (or erroneous) information, and stick with it forever unless someone changes your mind with a tire iron alongside the head. Our news media doesn’t help… we don’t have REAL news, we just have “sound bites”, and headlines based on the mindless antics of entertainment industry whackos. They seem to think that the world revolves around 15-year-olds, and it doesn’t, it really doesn’t.

    It drives me crazy to hear about farmers with ponds whining about their “duckweed invasion”, and complaining about the high cost of livestock protein in the very next breath.

    On the other hand, if the word does get out about duckweed’s usefulness, Monsanto will probably genetically modify it and the government will tax it.

    Am I grouchy today? What was the clue?

    I’ll have to make the time to check in on your International Lemna Assoc.

    Sue

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