Eichhornia – A Blended Blessing

Eichhornia crassipes is an alien invasive species, which has its origin from South America, that was introduced intentionally or accidentally in our native areas for ornamental purposes and for animal feed. It invades mostly the waterways like irrigation channels, paddy fields, lakes, and ponds. During the optimal conditions they have the capability of doubling their biomass, this then creates a disastrous environment in the water ecosystem.

In spite of its negative impact, it has a great beneficial property

DETOXIFIER

Bioremediation is a set of methods that uses plants for cleaning up soil or water as it is free from both organic and inorganic impurities. Eichhornia’s purpose is particularly for the biofiltration of effluents contaminated with heavy metals such as Cr, Cu, Co, Ni, Zn, Pb, Cd, and As in its root system. The roots of Eichhornia play a major role in the adsorption and there is no translocation of the metal. It is also a bioindicator of identifying organic pollutants such as endocrine disruptors and neonicotinoids. Eichhornia also involves in the uptake of non-metallic inorganic compounds: nitrate, orthophosphate, nitrate, and ammonium, with better performance for nitrate. This showed that the roots can extract nutrients (nitrates and phosphates) which are translocated and stored into shoots.

Up to 99.5% of chromium removal was achieved with about 100 L of wastewater in 15 days and water parameters like total dissolved solids and biochemical oxygen demand were greatly reduced in the toxic water.

HEALTHY FEED STOCK

Eichhornia dry matter contains high protein and mineral content, making it a useful source of animal feed and fish feed. The presence of some important phytochemicals such as alkaloids and saponins has been reported in water hyacinth, suggesting that they can be considered a good feed supplement.

The inclusion of 30% water hyacinth in animal feed was reported to give optimum performance and the weed was suggested to be a good forage material. As a fish feed, it has found to increase the weight of the fishes in 70 days by incorporating Eichhornia in its diet. The potential of water hyacinth as an alternative to conventional components of animal feed shows that it increases production by 30% and reduces cost by 20%.

BIOENERGY

Increasing urbanization in our world has brought great needs for fuel. Increasing the uptake of the fuels could bring it to become exhausted, in such cases biofuels are an excellent alternative. Biofuels are energy-rich compounds obtained through the biological way. The low lignin content present in Eichhornia makes the plant a great choice when sourcing for biomass.

The cellulose and hemicellulose present in it are converted with ease to sugar that is fermentable, resulting in great quantities of biomass that are used in the biofuel industry. Biodiesel production using potassium hydroxide extracts from Eichhornia are being done. It is a very promising biological process, being economically viable and eco-friendly.

MAKING A COMPOST PILE

Earthworms play a major role in the conversion of organic biomass into nutrient-rich compounds. Eichhornia has been found to be a very good vermicomposting raw material. With cow dung, Eichhornia can be converted into vermicompost, but to yield better vermicompost it is used alone as a substrate for earthworms. Vermicomposting Eichhornia led to an increase in nutrient composition of the vermicompost after 60 days, suggesting that the weed could be a good biofertilizer. Inorganic compounds such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the roots of the plant make it suitable raw material for inorganic fertilizers and compost synthesis. Using Eichhornia compost, therefore, could be a way of preventing secondary pollution. Compost made of Eichhornia, cow dung, and sawdust in the ratio 6: 3 :1 in India improved compost stability, indicating that Eichhornia is a good raw material for compost production.

A MEDICAMENT

Eichhornia is reported to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial functions. It also has anticancer ability due to the presence of some cancer-fighting compounds as on cervical cancer cell lines (HeLa) using methanolic extracts of Eichhornia showed anticancer potential.
IT IS USED AS
Hair fragrance
To treat cholera
Sore throat
Snake bites 
It can be made into a clinically acceptable solvent and used for the treatment of lipid disorder or for the treatment of patients with fatty liver. The extracts have also been found useful as health-care products.

FUTURE OF THIS INVASIVE SPECIES

As it is a worldwide grown invasive species, it gets adapted to different geological conditions and thus it is important to know the similarities in the genes, which would then provide a better understanding of the invasiveness of this plant. There is a possibility of drug formulation from this weed due to its vast study in the field of medicine.

-by

Ms. Aneesha Senthilkumar

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