Research Exploring Duckweed as New Crop

Pennsylvania State University researchers received a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore how duckweed could be grown on Pennsylvania farms to limit fertilizer and manure runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. Duckweed grows rapidly in water with elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Although it is typically considered a pest plant, this project will explore the role it can play in improving water quality and how it can be harvested for use as a high-protein feed supplement for livestock. Lead investigator Rachel Brennan explains, “Duckweed’s protein content is similar to soybeans but its growth rate is faster, so it has a higher yield. Given the same area, you can produce more protein if you switch to this little aquatic plant.” This four-year project will evaluate both the environmental and economic benefits of duckweed.