Use of the Halophyte Salicornia bigeloviias a Nutrient Removal Tool and Source of Valuable Byproducts
Tzachi M. Samocha & Brandon C. Klim
Funding provided by the Texas Department of Agriculture – Texas/Israel Exchange Grant Program is being used to evaluate the nutrient removal capacity of the halophyte Salicornia. Also known as glasswort, pickleweed, and marsh samphire, Salicornia thrives under high salinity conditions. Salicornia is an ideal candidate for use in constructed wetlands, in conjunction with shrimp farming operations, as a nutrient recovery tool. The seeds from Salicornia contain up to 30% vegetable oil which can be used for production of biofuel as well as for human consumption. The left over seed meal is high in protein (~ 30%), which can be used to supplement aquaculture and agricultural feeds. Biomass from the plant has the potential to produce a number of useful resources including; sustainable building materials, paper pulp, and cellulosic ethanol.
Unlike other saltwater plants, Salicornia accumulates salt in its tissue. This characteristic could be exploited to serve as a pioneer crop to remediate soils affected by high salinity, saltwater intrusion, or contamination from industrial wastewater. Salicornia can also be cultivated in arid coastal regions around the world that are not currently utilized for agricultural production.
Over the past three years, the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Mariculture Lab at Flour Bluff has characterized the nutrient removal capacity of Salicornia from shrimp culture effluent as well as evaluated seed, biomass, and oil production. Specific investigations that are currently underway include:
- Compositional analysis of the vegetable oil and compatibility for use in production of biofuels.
- Application of Salicornia in a constructed wetland for large scale nutrient recovery of shrimp mariculture effluent.
- Evaluation of the digestibility of Salicornia seed meal and biomass in shrimp and cattle.
- Selection for enhanced growth, seed production and resistance to insects in 5 unique Salicornia ecotypes native to Texas.
Development of Salicornia as a value-added crop has the potential to enhance the environmental sustainability of shrimp farming while increasing revenue through utilization of its valuable by-products. Future development of this ‘new’ crop may provide a sustainable source of oilseed that utilizes the planet’s abundant saltwater resources and enhance the sustainability of the shrimp farming industry by reducing nutrient pollution.
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Texas A&M AgriLife Research Mariculture Lab
4301 Waldron Rd.
Corpus Christi, TX 78418