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Duckweed Production Q&A

October 26, 2012

A new member of the ILA recently asked these questions about duckweed production. I thought to answer them here, in case anyone else has been wondering as well:

1. What can go wrong with a duckweed operation? Duckweed is a hardy plant, not subject to crashes like algae, but is still a vascular plant and vulnerable to occasional infestations of fungus-type growths where it turns white in patches and dies, hostile algae takeovers (although duckweed usually wins out)  and is sensitive to high pH and ammonia. All manageable.

Does it depend on any kind of “bugs” like digesters do? Not normally.

What are the options for nutrients?  human, animal  or plant waste, artificial fertilizers, dirt for micro nutrients.

Does it need to be located next to a sewage source?  Not necessarily. Trucking in waste nutrients puts a dent in the bottom line though.

Is it a good feed crop for sheep and goats? As a micro nutrient boost, it’s great for ruminants. Protein boost is a bit less, as the microbes in the first stomach digest it and nitrogen escapes, often before it can be fully utilized as a protein source. The jury is still out on that though.

What are the elements that control growth rates? Sun intensity, water temps, pH, alkalinity, wind protection, nutrient loads… the usual plant needs

I’m looking at potential locations ranging from the Colorado, Wyoming high country, to African deserts. The biggest commonality is that any of these places have very adequate and economical non depleting electricity. This brings up another question, what happens if there is no electricity for a couple of days? Nothing unless you are using the electricity as a heat source in the winter. (pricy anyhow and not recommended.)  You really don’t need electricity to grow duckweed unless you plan to process it further. BTW, duckweed will grow in all those areas you mentioned!

How much disruption happens during sustained periods of 30-40 mph winds?  You’ll end up with duckweed driven to the shoreline piled up in what is termed as a “self-mulching” scenario.

What are the survival temperature ranges on the low end? In the lower 30’s F. some species form starchy thick “turions” and sink to the bottom of the pond to hibernate over winter. What seeds there are sprout in the spring as well.

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