Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content

 Global - Sci - Tech - News - Content

​Engineered duckweed could be a more sustainable source of biofuel Update: 21-10-2022
While plants such as corn and soybeans are major sources of biofuel, they're grown on land that could otherwise be used for food crops. With that problem in mind, scientists have genetically engineered oil-producing duckweed that could be grown in wastewater.

By Ben Coxworth

October 17, 2022





A close look at the engineered Lemna japonica duckweed, the oil yield of which is reportedly seven times higher than that of soybeans Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory



The study was conducted by researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and New York's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. They started with an existing type of duckweed known as Lemna japonica, to which they added multiple genes which were already known to drive oil production and storage in other plants.

In what is described as a push/pull/protect effect, one of those genes pushes (increases) the production of fatty acids, one of them pulls (assembles) those fatty acids into triacylglycerol oils, and another protects them from environmental degradation by coating the oil droplets in plant tissue. As a result, the engineered duckweed accumulates oil at almost 10% of its dry weight biomass, which is reportedly a 100-fold increase over the accumulation rate of the plant's wild counterpart.

Its oil yields are also seven times higher than those of soybeans. Unlike soybeans, however, crops of the duckweed wouldn't take up farmland, as they'd be grown in large vessels or ponds. In fact, the scientists suggest that duckweed crops could be grown in the liquid waste runoff from pig and poultry farms, which the plants would help to clean up by drawing excess nutrients out of the water.

Brookhaven Lab postdoctoral researcher Yuanxue Liang examines some of the duckweed under a microscope Brookhaven National Laboratory

One challenge lay in the fact that ordinarily, the gene that pushes fatty acid production also stunts plant growth. In order to get around that problem, the "push" gene was paired with another gene known as a promoter, the latter of which is activated by adding a specific chemical inducer to the water. "Adding this promoter keeps the push gene turned off until we add the inducer, which allows the plants to grow normally before we turn on fatty acid/oil production," said the lead scientist, Brookhaven biochemist John Shanklin.

The researchers are now looking into methods of growing the duckweed and extracting oil from it on a commercial scale.

A paper on the study was recently published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal.

Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Posts on:
Select a date from the calendar.

 Video Clip

  • The NA Chairwoman - Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan - hosted a reception in Hanoi on Jan 29 for Mr Tsutomu Takebe, the special advisor to Japan - Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Alliance, who confirmed his continued contributions to developing 2 countries’ relations
  • The National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan has complimented Vietnam’s U23 football team – the runner-up of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship (AFC), on their excellent performance and historical achievements at the continental spo
  • Vietnam U23 welcomed home: State PM Phuc welcomed in Hanoi on January 28 U23 Vietnam – the runner - up of the Asian Football Confederation U23 Championship - AFC in China, praising their excellent performance and achievements at the continental tournament
  • U23 Vietnamese football team’s return wows the foreign press: the impressive performances of the red - shirts have left a mark on the international media, as well as on the hearts of millions of football fans not only in Vietnam but all over the region
  • The Asian Football Confederation has an article praising Vietnam’s final game in Changzhou, China; it said the match at the final round wrapped up Vietnam’s memorable journey but it will live forever in the memory of fans in this Southeast Asian country

     Photo Library