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Information @ a Glance

  • Duckweed is the smallest flowering plant. It floats on the water surface in a bright green layer. Duckweed has no stems and no leaves. Some may have tiny roots. It is basically a green sphere, sometimes called fronds but having nothing in common with leaves or fronds. Some comprise a pair of "fronds" with tiny roots.
  • Duckweed does not flower frequently, and usually reproduces by budding on the margin or base of the "fronds". Each "frond" can only do this a limited number of times before dying of old age, whereupon they turn yellow as they lose their chlorophyll. In temperate climates, Duckweed survives the winter by producing buds that sink to the bottom of the pond. Duckweed disperse by water or are transported by water birds. The plants are also small enough to be carried along with weather like tornadoes.


  • Duckweed systems are one of the options that have been widely applied for combined handling of wastewater with the nutrients used for poultry and aquacultural projects. The pollutant removal efficiency of duckweed-based pond systems varies widely depending on retention time, water depth, initial nutrient concentration, duckweed density, used genera type, and harvesting regimes.

  • This is a relatively new technology in which small-scale wastewater treatment can be achieved using duckweed (Lemna spp. or Spirodela sp.). Duckweed is a self growing plant abundant in the tropical countries. It is commonly used as a fertilizer in paddy fields, but has recently been used in the treatment of wastewater in Bangladesh. In Mirzapur, Bangladesh, this technology has been implemented at the village level as part of a UNDP project examining the potential of duckweed-based wastewater treatment and fish production.


  • Because Duckweed floats and require little structural fibres (5-15%), it has more nutrition by weight compared to other vascular plants: protein (15-25% in natural conditions, 15-45% when cultured under ideal conditions), fat, nitrogen, and phosphorus. It also contains higher amounts of essential amino acids than most plants. In fact, it most closely resembles animal proteins. It also contains large concentrations of trace minerals that make Duckweed good supplements for animal feed.

  • By absorbing nutrients, Duckweed also has potential as a natural water purifier, converting waste water and sewage into pure water and edible Duckweed with little resulting sludge. The only drawbacks are that a large surface area is required; and Duckweed cannot handle toxic wastes and heavy metals. But Duckweed can become a serious weed in nutrient rich, shallow ponds.

Market and Report

  • The use of duckweed as envisaged appears to have only limited application in the rural areas of developing countries because it largely exports the nutrients to a central site where sewage works are installed and the cost of transporting nutrients back to the farm where they can be an asset would be extremely high.

  • In Bangladesh the Grameen bank has sponsored a highly successful small-scale loan system which encourages the development of small scale farming practices. Taking Bangladesh as an example, the organised production of duckweed could provide in sufficient quantities to replace at a minimum 50% of the protein meals required by the small poultry producer if a simple and economic system of collection/sun drying and marketing could be put in place.

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