Land-based drip-irrigated culture of Ulva compressa: The effect of culture platform design and nutrient concentration on biomass production and protein content

TitleLand-based drip-irrigated culture of Ulva compressa: The effect of culture platform design and nutrient concentration on biomass production and protein content
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMendoza W., Mendola D., Kim J., Yarish C., Velloze A., Mitchell B.G
JournalPlos One
Date Published2018/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1932-6203
Accession NumberWOS:000436549200042
Keywordschlorophyta; growth; heavy-metal; inorganic carbon; lactuca; long-island sound; marine aquaculture; nile tilapia; oreochromis-niloticus; Science & Technology - Other Topics; seaweeds; water motion

This work developed a laboratory prototype methodology for cost-effective, water-sparing drip-irrigation of seaweeds, as a model for larger-scale, on-land commercial units, which we envision as semi-automated, inexpensive polyethylene sheet-covered bow-framed greenhouses with sloping plastic covered floors, water-collecting sumps, and pumped recycling of culture media into overhead low-pressure drip emitters. Water droplets form on the continually wetted interior plastic surfaces of these types of greenhouses scattering incoming solar radiation to illuminate around and within the vertically-stacked culture platforms. Concentrated media formulations applied through foliar application optimize nutrient uptake by the seaweeds to improve growth and protein content of the cultured biomass. An additional attribute is that seaweed growth can be accelerated by addition of anthropogenic CO2-containing industrial flue gases piped into the head-space of the greenhouse to reuse and recycle CO2 into useful algal biomass. This demonstration tested three different drip culture platform designs (horizontal, vertical and slanted) and four increasing fertilizer media concentrations (in seawater) for growth, areal productivity, and thallus protein content of wild-collected Ulva compressa biomass, against fully-submerged controls. Cool White fluorescent lights provided 150-200 mu mol photon m(-2) s(-1) illumination on a 12/12 hr day/night cycle. Interactive effects we tested using a four-level single factorial randomized block framework (p<0.05). Growth rates and biomass of the drip irrigation designs were 3-9% day(-1) and 5-18 g m(-2) day(-1) (d.w.) respectively, whereas the fully-submerged control group grew better at 8-11% per day with of 20-30 g m(-2) day(-1), indicating further optimization of the drip irrigation methodology is needed to improve growth and biomass production. Results demonstrated that protein content of Ulva biomass grown using the vertically-oriented drip culture platform and 2x fertilizer concentrations (42:16:36 N:P:K) was 27% d.w., approximating the similarly-fertilized control group. The drip methodology was found to significantly improve gas and nutrient mass transfer through the seaweed thalli, and overall, the labor- and-energy-saving methodology would use a calculated 20% of the seawater required for conventional on-land tank-based tumble culture.

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