Farmers could use a native Welsh plant to turn agricultural waste into feed for livestock as part of an Aberystwyth University research project.
The study is investigating how slurry and wastewater from the beef and dairy industries could be used to grow duckweed.
Described as a ‘miracle plant’ due to its fast-growing nature and ability to clean waste water, duckweed can also provide a valuable protein source for feeding livestock.
The work of researchers at Aberystwyth University and University College Cork could benefit the beef and dairy producers by reducing their reliance on importing protein-rich feed such as soy.
With a single cow producing up to 60kgs of waste per day, storing slurry is a significant cost for farmers. Duckweed’s waste water cleansing properties could also help improve water quality in rivers and coastal areas.
Dr Dylan Gwynn-Jones, who is leading the project at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), said:
“We are very keen for farmers and the wider agriculture sector to get involved in the project. With expected increases in global food production, there is a pressing need for agriculture to be carbon-friendly, while protecting water quality and biodiversity.
“By helping the agricultural industry develop technology to produce valuable green protein from waste, the research effectively allows farmers to ‘make money from muck’.
“Native duckweeds can make slurry a valuable resource. They are amongst the fastest growing plants, they are tolerant of ammonium, which is found in slurry, and they produce valuable essential amino acids that make it a promising feed-stock.”
The project applies the teams’ knowledge of hydroponics and waste management to develop plant growth systems supplied with nutrients sourced from animal waste.
The €1.46 million Brainwaves project (Bilateral Regional Accord between Ireland and Wales for Agricultural Valorisation and Environmental Sustainability) is part-funded by €1.16 million from the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation Programme. It builds on previously successful collaborations between Aberystwyth and Cork Universities.
Farmers and the wider agricultural industry can find out more and apply to be part of the project by going to: www.ucc.ie/en/brainwaves.