Azolla’s potential has been recognized for many years in India and the Far East where it is used as a livestock feed and biofertilizer, particularly in rice production.
Innovative work is also demonstrating how azolla is able to provides a crucial biological link in the development of sustainable, integrated farming practices that are not reliant on chemical fertilizers, but instead use the natural relationship between different species.
These include integrated rice-Azolla-duck-fish farming in Japan, and azolla’s use as a biofertilizer for coffee and other crops grown in natural ‘tree-shade’ environments in India’s Western Ghats. This produces some of the best coffee in the world and provides natural habitats for wildlife that are increasingly threatened in the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Wester Ghats – one of the eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity in the world.
Azolla’s value is slowly being appreciated in the West as a food for people, as a biofuel, as a sequester of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and as a potential source of high-value products including pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and bioplastics.