Great response so far to yesterday’s story about what we might do with water hyacinth — besides killing it. Update: See the bottom of this post for a box that didn’t make the print edition of the paper.
One caller says feed it to the goats.
“I betcha the goats would just go crazy over it,” she said. “If it wasn’t in water, the goats would eat it all up in probably two days.”
But Dearl Sanders, a professor at Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center, threw some cold water over the idea that water hyacinth would make good feed for cattle or other animals.
“Folks have been trying to come up with commercial uses for water hyacinth for about 100 years,” he wrote in an email. “Aside (from) aiding in water treatment plants I am not aware of many successes… The problem in commercializing the plant is that it is primarily water (about 95 percent) and the commercial harvesting of the plant is expensive. By comparison most traditional forages contain 40 to 50 percent water, and most grains used for cattle feed are harvested at about 15 percent moisture. Cattle will eat the plant (I have observed in Brazil) but they do not get much nutritive value.”
How about a little fun, then? Cynthia Shelton, the Delta boater and hyacinth dreamer who was a big part of my story, says she has almost finished weaving her Hyacinth Heffalump. (What the heck is a heffalump?) Check her blog in the next week or so for a photo.
The missing box:
Put to good use
What might we do with all that water hyacinth?
• Compost. Because it contains so much water and nitrogen, hyacinth might be a good green material for composting, said master gardener Lee Miller. You’d need a lot of it, though. “If somebody will haul it out here, I’ll give it a try,” said Miller, who lives east of Stockton.
• Animal feed. Some believe hyacinth could feed cattle or pigs, although some experts are doubtful because of the plant’s high water content. Hyacinth does contain proteins and minerals.
• Energy. Experts say hyacinth could be used to generate biofuel.
• Purification. Hyacinth sucks toxins out of the water, prompting some cities to attempt to use these plants in their wastewater treatment processes.
• Household items. Major stores sell baskets, containers and chairs made of imported water hyacinth.