RALEIGH, N.C., April 9 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say duckweed -- a tiny aquatic plant -- can help clean up animal waste at industrial hog farms and may held solve the global energy crisis.
North Carolina State University researchers said growing duckweed on hog wastewater can produce five to six times more starch per acre than corn. Professor Jay Cheng and Associate Professor Anne-Marie Stomp said their finding means ethanol production using duckweed could be faster and cheaper than that derived from corn.
"We can kill two birds -- biofuel production and wastewater treatment -- with one stone: duckweed," said Cheng, who noted starch from duckweed can be readily converted into ethanol using the same facilities currently used for corn.
Large-scale hog farms manage their animal waste by storing it in large "lagoons" for biological treatment, the scientists said. Duckweed utilizes the nutrients in the wastewater for growth, thus capturing the nutrients and preventing their release into the environment. In other words, Cheng says, "Duckweed could be an environmentally friendly, economically viable feedstock for ethanol."
The research was presented last month in Santa Clara, Calif., during the annual conference of the Institute of Biological Engineering.