U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Floating Water Weed Could Be Used as Biofuels Feedstock
Published: February 19, 2014
Posted: March 27, 2014

Comparison of Fronds and Turions. Duckweed is a relatively simple plant with fronds that float on the surface and roots that extend into the water (right). In the flask on the left, dormant phase turions have dropped to the bottom. [Image credit: Rutgers University]

Duckweed is one of the world’s smallest and fastest-growing flowering plants and can be a hard-to-control weed in ponds and small lakes. It shows great promise as a biofuel feedstock, however, and private companies are already exploring its use in fuel production. Researchers at Rutgers University, the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, and several other facilities recently sequenced the complete genome of Greater Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza) and analyzed it in comparison with several other plants, including rice and tomato. S. polyrhiza’s very small genome is missing many genes for plant maturation and production of cellulose and lignin but has more genes than comparable plants for starch production. Determining which genes produce desirable traits will allow researchers to create new varieties of duckweed with enhanced biofuel traits.

Reference: Wang, W., et al. 2014. “The Spirodela polyrhiza Genome Reveals Insights into Its Neotenous Reduction Fast Growth and Aquatic Lifestyle,” Nature Communications 5, 3311. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4311. (Reference link)

Contact: Dan Drell, SC-23.2, (301) 903-4742, John Houghton, SC-23.2, (301) 903-8288
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI)

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER


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