Lemnaceae: Source Food Supplements to Functional Foods
Duckweeds are the simplest and smallest (“frond” size 1 mm to less than 1 cm) flowering plants, able to grow on fresh and polluted water. In the recent past, intense research to understand various species and their potential has been underway, especially in the genetics and biochemical repertoire. Duckweeds come under the family Lemnaceae and contain genera such as Lemna, Spirodela, Landolita, Wolffia and Wolffella. Duckweeds thrive ubiquitously as autotrophs using photosynthesis to source their nutritional requirements from solar energy and minerals from the rhizosphere. They are also endowed to absorb and accumulate heavy metals, radionucleotides and metalloids with potential for phytoremediation. The metabolic versatility of duckweeds can be deployed as nutrition in aquaculture, livestock and of late as functional foods. Duckweeds are currently being explored to find new applications in feed to complement diets and increase animal growth either alone or coupled with crop residues to bring about a balance of nutrients. Duckweeds have emerged as an important food resource; a case in point is Wolffia arrhiza. Consumed in various formats, duckweeds have a good balance of proteins, fat, starch, an array of favorable amino acids and fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants, phytosterols and much sought after omega-3 fatty acids as well.