What is duckweed?
Duckweed is a small aquatic plant found in lakes and waterways worldwide. It grows in a variety of climates from Siberia to the tropics. Because it thrives on high levels of nitrogen and phosphates and can proliferate on municipal and agricultural runoffs, it has been used for environmental monitoring by the EPA, as well as commercially for low-cost remediation of water quality worldwide, especially in developing countries. Duckweed is also an attractive source of biomass. Because it is small and has minimal vasculature, it contains very little lignin but consists mainly of easily degradable soft tissue. Additionally, its rate of biomass increase can be 2 to 5 times that of crop plants, and it lives in habitats where it does not compete with traditional food crops. Given these many desirable properties, Rutgers researchers are actively investigating duckweed as an integrated solution for both environmental remediation and biomass production for biofuels.
Time-Lapse Video of Duckweed Growth
Spirodela polyrhiza grown on filtered wastewater from Princeton Meadows Wastewater Treatment Plant. This strain (RDSC Serial # 177) was originally collected from a lake in Ajmer, India. Duckweed plants use asexual reproduction to proliferate rapidly on nutrient-rich water.
Photography by Ryan Gutierrez and Philomena Chu, Laboratory of Eric Lam, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.