Lemna is a genus of free-floating aquatic plants from the duckweed family. These rapidly-growing plants have found uses as a model system for studies in basic plant biology, in ecotoxicology, in production of biopharmaceuticals, and as a source of animal feeds for agriculture and aquaculture.
Lemna species grow as simple free-floating thalli on or just beneath the water surface. Most are small, not exceeding 5 mm in length, except Lemna trisulca which is elongated and has a branched structure. Lemna thalli have a single root, which distinguishes them from related genera Spirodela and Landoltia
The plants grow mainly by vegetative reproduction: two daughter plants bud off from the adult plant. This form of growth allows very rapid colonisation of new water. Duckweeds are flowering plants, and nearly all of them are known to reproduce sexually, flowering and producing seed under appropriate conditions. Certain duckweeds (e.g. L. gibba) are long day plants, while others (e.g. L. minor) are short day plants.
The rapid growth of duckweeds finds application in bioremediation of polluted waters and as test organisms for environmental studies. It is also being used as an expression system for economical production of complex biopharmaceuticals.
Duckweed meal (dried duckweed) is a good cattle feed. It contains 25-45% proteins (depending on the growth conditions), 4.4% fat, and 8-10% fibre, measured by dry weight.
OECD and US EPA guidelines describe toxicity testing using Lemna gibba or Lemna minor as test organisms. Both of these species have been studied extensively for use in phytotoxicity tests. Genetic variability in responses to toxicants can occur in Lemna, and there are insufficient data to recommend a specific clone for testing. The US EPA test uses aseptic technique. The OECD test is not conducted axenically, but steps are taken at stages during the test procedure to keep contamination by other organisms to a minimum. Depending on the objectives of the test and the regulatory requirements, testing may be performed with renewal (semi-static and flow-through) or without renewal (static) of the test solution. Renewal is useful for substances that are rapidly lost from solution as a result of volatilisation, photodegradation, precipitation or biodegradation.
Lemna has been transformed by molecular biologists to express proteins of pharmaceutical interest. Expression constructs were engineered to cause Lemna to secrete the transformed proteins into the growth medium at high yield. Since the Lemna is grown on a simple medium, this substantially reduces the burden of protein purification in preparing such proteins for medical use, promising substantial reductions in manufacturing costs. In addition, the host Lemna can be engineered to cause secretion of proteins with human patterns of glycosylation, an improvement over conventional plant gene-expression systems. Several such products are being developed, including monoclonal antibodies.
High amounts of duck weed with a high protein content can be achieved by careful control of the growing conditions. Even though duckweed can tolerate the temperature of 6 to 33 °C,the appropriate temperature range for a good harvest is 20 to 28 °C. The acceptable pH range is 5 to 9, although better growth is possible in the pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. A minimum water depth of 1 ft is required. A sample of 20m.M Urea provides a protein content of 45%. Water could contain 60 mg/L of soluble nitrogen and 1 mg/L of phosphorus. Fertiliser is required on a daily basis.
Duckweed can be farmed organically, with nutrients being supplied from for example cattle dung, pig waste, biogas plant slurry, or any other organic matter in slurry form. Because of the rapid growth, daily harvesting is necessary to achieve optimal yields. Harvesting is done such that less than a kilogram per square metre of duckweed remains. A duckweed farm can produce 10 to 30 tons of dried duckweed per hectare per year.
Lemna International Receives Investment License in Ho Chi Minh City for First Municipal Solid Waste Treatment Facility
Jun 14, 2005; Asian Pages 06-14-2005 On May 6, 2005 the Government of Vietnam awarded an investment license tothe American firm Lemna...