Duckweed as an agricultural amendment: Nitrogen mineralization, leaching, and sorghum uptake

Andrew N. Kreider, Carlos R. Fernandez Pulido, Mary Ann Bruns, Rachel A. Brennan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Excessive N and P in surface waters can promote eutrophication (algae-dominated, low-O 2 waters), which decreases water quality and aquatic life. Duckweed (Lemnaceae), a floating aquatic plant, rapidly absorbs N and P from water and its composition shows strong potential as a soil amendment. Therefore, it may be used to transfer N and P from eutrophic water bodies to agricultural fields. In this work, dried duckweed was incorporated into agricultural soil in microcosm, column, and field tests to evaluate biological N cycling, nutrient retention, and crop yield compared with compost, diammonium phosphate (DAP), and an amendment-free control. In microcosm tests, 25 ± 13% of duckweed N was mineralized, providing on average less mineral N than DAP (107 ± 21%), but more than compost (11 ± 12%). In columns, duckweed treatments leached only 2% of the N added, significantly less than DAP, which leached 60% of its N. Compared with the control, DAP leached significantly more phosphate (78%), whereas duckweed and compost treatments leached less (56 and 27%, respectively). Crop yield, as well as runoff N and P, were measured in field tests growing forage sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench.]. Although less total N was applied to duckweed plots than to DAP plots (75 vs. 130 kg ha −1 , respectively), duckweed was found to retain 30% more total mineral N in a tilled agricultural field than DAP, while supporting a comparable yield. These tests indicate that duckweed may provide a sustainable source of N and P for agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-475
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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