Washington, July 9 : Three biologists at Rutgers' Waksman Institute of Microbiology in the US have determined that on duckweed, which is a tiny aquatic plant found in ponds, has tremendous potential for cleaning up pollution, combating global warming and feeding the world.
According to the researchers, duckweed plants can extract nitrogen and phosphate pollutants from agricultural and municipal wastewater.
They can reduce algae growth, coliform bacterial counts and mosquito larvae on ponds, while concentrating heavy metals, capturing or degrading toxic chemicals, and encourage the growth of other aquatic animals such as frogs and fowl.
These plants produce biomass faster than any other flowering plant, serve as high-protein feed for domestic animals and show clear potential as an alternative for biofuel production.
"The Spirodela genome sequence could unlock the remarkable potential of a rapidly growing aquatic plant for absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, ecosystem carbon cycling and biofuel production," said Todd Michael, a member of the Waksman Institute and an assistant professor of plant biology and pathology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
At the behest of the Rutgers scientists and their colleagues from five other institutions, the US Department of Energy (DOE) will channel resources at its national laboratories into sequencing the genome of the duckweed.
The DOE's Joint Genome Institute has also announced that its Community Sequencing Program will support the genomic sequencing of duckweed as one of its priority projects for 2009 directed toward new biomass and bioenergy programs.
With the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and recent increases in food prices worldwide, the drive to develop sustainable feedstocks and processing protocols for biofuel production has intensified.
The search for new biomass species has revealed the potential of duckweed species in this regard as well as for bioremediation and environmental carbon capture.