Interesting News! Innovation At its Best: Eco-Friendly Products Made From Water Hyacinth.
The water hyacinth is a free-floating perennial herb of freshwater ecosystems. It is found at the surface of rivers, lakes, canals and ponds and may root in the mud of shallow waters. It is generally 10-20 cm high but can reach 1 m high when established in dense mats. Water hyacinth is a rhizomatous and stoloniferous plant with long, pendant and adventitious roots. The leaves arise from the rhizome nodes and stand above the water. They are dark green, ovate and cordate at the base, borne on swollen bladder-like petioles. The plant has considerable buoyancy and the leaves act as sails in the wind. The inflorescence bears 8-10 pale violet or blue lily-like flowers. The fruit is a dehiscent capsule containing up to 200 small seeds.
Water hyacinth is one of the most noxious weeds in tropical and subtropical regions, and many attempts have been made to eliminate or control it. Harnessing its considerable productivity is considered as a sustainable and possibly less expensive method of control. Water hyacinth can be used as a vegetable, fodder, green manure, compost and mulch for soil improvement. Much research has been devoted to its use as a feed material for many classes of livestock. In South-East Asia, integrated fish-pig-water hyacinth farming systems have been developed in order to increase global animal production: water hyacinths grown in fish ponds have higher nutritive value (higher protein content) and can be fed to fish and pigs in different forms. Fish and pig manures fertilize fish ponds and provide nutrients to water hyacinth (Yang Huazhu et al., 2001). Animals are usually fed the aerial part (leaves and stems without the roots) or only the leaves, but sometimes the whole plant (root included) is used. Water hyacinth can be fed fresh, ensiled or dried but many other processes are used or have been tried, including cooking and fermentation.
Other products and services derived from water hyacinth have been investigated, including as a source of pigments for poultry nutrition, and leaf protein concentrates for food and feed. Water hyacinth is used for making textiles, paper and for camouflaging fish traps. It ferments rapidly due to its high water content and can supply biomass for biogas production. Water hyacinth is used as a water-clearing agent, as a substrate for mushroom production and as an ornamental species.
Note: the term "whole-plant" used in the scientific literature is sometimes confusing. For an aquatic plant, it can designate either the whole plant including the roots or the whole aerial part.
Water hyacinth originated from Amazonia and spread naturally throughout South America. It was introduced as an ornamental species into the USA, South East Asia and South Africa in the late 19th century and is now naturalized in most tropical and subtropical areas. It can be found between 38