Livestock farmers are facing an uphill battle about how to dispose of slurry on their farms. But new research has come up with a plan to use the waste to grow animal feed protein.
Research studies at the Aberystwyth University in Wales are investigating how farmers could use the slurry and waste water to grow the Welsh native plant 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.
Duckweed is an aquatic plant of the family Lemnaceae and is a rich source of protein and also contains cell wall materials. Spirodela, Lemna and Wolffia are the most available species of duckweeds.
The work of researchers at Aberystwyth University and a team at University College Cork in Ireland could be a benefit for beef and dairy farmers by reducing their reliance on importing protein-rich feed such as soy.
… effectively allows farmers to make money from muck.
The researchers noted that, 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.
We are very keen for farmers and the wider agriculture sector to get involved in the project.
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.