Wasu Pathom-aree, Sritip Sensupa, Antira Wichaphian, Nanthakrit Sriket, Benyapa Kitwetch, Jeeraporn Pekkoh, Pachara Sattayawat, Sureeporn Lomakool, Yupa Chromkaew, Sirasit Srinuanpan

An Innovative Co-Cultivation of Microalgae and Actinomycete-Inoculated Lettuce in a Hydroponic Deep-Water Culture System for the Sustainable Development of a Food–Agriculture–Energy Nexus

  • Horticulture
  • Plant Science

In recent years, researchers have turned their attention to the co-cultivation of microalgae and plants as a means to enhance the growth of hydroponically cultivated plants while concurrently producing microalgal biomass. However, the techniques used require precise calibration based on plant growth responses and their interactions with the environment and cultivation conditions. This study initially focused on examining the impact of hydroponic nutrient concentrations on the growth of the microalga Chlorella sp. AARL G049. The findings revealed that hydroponic nutrient solutions with electrical conductivities (EC) of 450 µS/cm and 900 µS/cm elicited a positive response in microalgae growth, resulting in high-quality biomass characterized by an elevated lipid content and favorable properties for renewable biodiesel. The biomass also exhibited high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), indicating excellent nutritional indices. The microalgae culture and microalgae-free culture, along with inoculation-free lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. longifolia) and lettuce that was inoculated with plant growth actinobacteria, specifically the actinomycete Streptomyces thermocarboxydus S3, were subsequently integrated into a hydroponic deep-water culture system. The results indicated that several growth parameters of lettuce cultivated in treatments incorporating microalgae experienced a reduction of approximately 50% compared to treatments without microalgae, and lowering EC levels in the nutrient solution from 900 µS/cm to 450 µS/cm resulted in a similar approximately 50% reduction in lettuce growth. Nevertheless, the adverse impacts of microalgae and nutrient stress were alleviated through the inoculation with actinomycetes. Even though the co-cultivation system leads to reduced lettuce growth, the system enables the production of high-value microalgal biomass with exceptional biodiesel fuel properties, including superior oxidative stability (>13 h), a commendable cetane number (>62), and a high heating value (>40 MJ/kg). This biomass, with its potential as a renewable biodiesel feedstock, has the capacity to augment the overall profitability of the process. Hence, the co-cultivation of microalgae and actinomycete-inoculated lettuce appears to be a viable approach not only for hydroponic lettuce cultivation but also for the generation of microalgal biomass with potential applications in renewable energy.

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