High hopes for lowly pond scum

September 14, 2021




Pond scum generally isn't looked upon kindly. But the microalgae that make up these floating green mats of slime could get newfound respect as renewable sources of fuel, specialty chemicals, dietary supplements and other valued products.

The potential of pond scum has also spilled over into agriculture. In August, a team of University of Minnesota and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists published findings that inoculating crop soils with microalgae known as cyanobacteria can offer several benefits. These include naturally fertilizing the soil, replenishing its store of organic matter and binding soil particles together so that they're less prone to erosion.

Adriana Alvarez, PhD candidate and research assistant in the CFANS Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, led the study together with U of M professor Robert Gardner (deceased) and ARS soil scientists Sharon Weyers and Jane Johnson. The collaboration is part of a shared interest: finding sustainable ways agriculture can meet the food, fiber, feed and fuel needs of a growing world population forecasted to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Learn more