Lemna's ability to survive in a range of different environments is astounding!
For the past year, Abby Campbell and Kirsty Allwood have been working within the BRAINWAVES research group based in Aberystwyth University as a part of the year in industry degree scheme.
Both of them have a keen interest in botany and sustainable agriculture, and so were both eager to join the ongoing research in duckweed and its potential to remediate against agricultural waste.
Post lockdowns they were very excited to get as much laboratory experience as possible.
For the past 10 months they have been looking at how well duckweed grows on various waste streams. Lemna minor is tolerance to different environmental conditions. They have looked at responses to light conditions, nutrients and varying temperature.
Abby suggests that "Lemna minor's ability to survive in a range of different environments is astounding. If given optimal conditions it can grow at astounding rates doubling biomass in one week. It is truly in the “Top trumps” of plants. It particularly thrives on raw and digestate slurry"
Kirsty explains that "Digestate is an excellent source of nitrogen in the form of ammonia, which is readily absorbed by plants - specifically in our interest, duckweed". To grow the duckweed, they have been testing various concentrations to find the best levels of ammonium for optimum biomass production.
So, what is the point of all their practical lab experience and in growing duckweed in digestate?
Well, the goal is to produce feed for livestock as duckweed has been shown to be a nutritious, high-protein feed for various livestock animals (and humans too!) The girls primary research showed that following a circular-economy method this is very possible, and so they have been working on optimizing nutrient uptake by modifying growth conditions to further improve the commercial viability of this approach.
We wish these up and coming female plant scientists the best of luck as their future looks bright!