Cattail Biomass

This newsletter from Peggy Korth includes a recent article that covers the field thoroughly. Knowledge and practice is becoming broadly exposed and this is one more step in that process. It is still a long way from a full blown industry but these are the right steps.

I would like to see the plant been aggressively promoted in sewage lagoons in particular. The need is there, and the on site capability is there also. Converting a five acre sewage pond into a thirty acre wetland that cleans the flow, produces massive amounts of fiber and produces ethanol producing starch, is surely better than present practice. It might even keep the Canada geese out of lawns.

It is increasingly clear that in situations in which ample water is available to produce a conducive wetland that cattail culture promises to be an optimal solution in plant husbandry. It should have been harnessed decades ago as farm machinery became available.

Cattail Histhings
May Bonus Issue

Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources

Summer Address: P O Box 572, Cloudcroft NM 88317
FAX (830) 885-4827; Cell: (512) 757-4499

Cattails as Biomass is being posted to the new website. And you are the first to know! Also see Please note the summer address for book orders. Also, we now send fast and safe processing PayPal invoicing when requested.

The following article on biomass incorporates many of the principles already discussed in our Cattail Histhings newsletters. Your comments are welcome as always. Not wanting to be left behind as others move forward in new cattail research, I thought it would be a good idea to post information collected during the extensive work effort of you the contributors, myself, Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources, and my mentor Dr. David D. Woodbridge. I am making it very clear that my ‘open source’ information is to be used for the good of everyone and appreciate the user not losing sight of the original work done. Thank you to everyone who has supported our outreach and education with book purchases and donations. Although not a significant amount by many funding standards, the income for last year (less than $2500) has helped us keep on keeping on. The actual May Cattail Histhings issue is forthcoming. I am waiting for a final conclusion on summer data collection. I may simply have to publish as is.


Cattails offer a natural solution to multiple environmental concerns. Dynamic growth potential, global adaptation, remediation benefits and starch and sugar rich concentrations bring cattail to the forefront as an exemplary biomass resource. Sometimes considered as an invasive weed, the farming of this well-known native plant of the Typha family offers sustainable futures to modern man as it once did to indigenous cultures. The paper discusses Value-added Benefits, Cattail Biomass Starch References and Resource Info, Forward Thinking Analysis: Resource Efficiency, Cattail Statistics, Sustainable Processes and Services, Technology and Planning, Green Chemistry through Natural Resources, Performance-based Programs, Innovative Approach to Compliance, Integrated Solutions, Environmental Champions, Cattails to Ethanol, Korth’s Evolutionary Methodology, Life-cycle Assessments and Results, Environmental Challenges, and About Sustainable Technology Systems, Inc.

Biofuels Wiki makes information gathering easier

Disconnected information on biofuels scattered across numerous Web sites and geographical areas can make it difficult to find the right source. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina launched a global wiki in April to address the problem. The wiki makes it possible to educate members and the public about issues related to large-quantity sustainable production of biofuels all in one place, including feedstock, research, training, logistical solutions, policy, commerce and distribution, among others.

Cattail as Biomass

Dynamic growth potential, global adaptation, remediation benefits and starch and sugar rich concentrations bring cattail to the forefront as an exemplary biomass resource. Sometimes considered as an invasive weed, the farming of this well-known native plant of the Typha family offers sustainable futures to modern man as it once did to indigenous cultures.

Cattails offer a natural solution to multiple environmental concerns. Growing Typha latifolia and other common cattail species as a flooded field crop produces a starch rich-rhizome and sugary stalk—an ideal biomass for biofuels production. Cattail has been gown commercially as a field crop for over 25 years in nurseries that cater to natural and aquatic remediation and landscaping plants. New emphasis on remediation, energy resources, and valuable co-products spurs current investigation. Drawing from the thousands of peer-reviewed papers on cattail, the continual sighting of benefits in reducing microbial load (up to a 3 log microbial elimination), heavy metals, and desalination are too numerous to mention individually. Known as a source of robust remediation found the world over
[i],[ii], benefits to treating contaminated water flows offer a way to support stewardship, new resource development, and profitability in a down economy. New application in treating animal feed lots through cattail farming can protect small flows and ground water from contamination concerns. Cattail remediation in wastewater lagoons is practiced the world over and recommended in academic studies as a way to treat urban runoff contamination.[iii]

Value-added benefits become an economic stimulus for local and extended markets. Cattail stalk processing is evaluated as a quality fiber and pulp resource similar to the use of sugar cane pulp and fiber. New technological pulping techniques
[iv] preserve the structural integrity of the rind retaining fiber feature and preventing the re-absorption of the juices back into the pulped biomass. Juice is separated as an excellent sugar source for further co-product development. Additionally, soil amelioration projects combine with crop development in the cattail growth cycle to add new cropland suitable to additional energy crops without affecting land use for food crops. Wastewater remediation returns cleaner water into small flows significantly lowering nitrogen levels and sequestering CO2. Specialists from industry, academia and the US Forest Service cooperate with investigators in community projects to demonstrate these benefits.[v]

The Cattail Histhings Newsletter, a nonprofit correspondence among persons interested in “Cattails to Ethanol” recently posted the following information recognizing cattail as a biomass energy crop.
[vi] A partial list of information from a literary review only dents the bulk of the literature in assembling these references.

**Cattail Biomass Starch References and Resource Info**

1. Cattail rhizomes are fairly high in starch content; this is usually listed at about 30% to 46%. The core can be ground into flour. One acre of cattails would yield about 6,475 pounds of flour. This flour would probably contain about 80 % carbohydrates and around 6% to 8% protein.
Harrington, H. D., USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Plant Guide, Contributed By: USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Idaho Plant Materials Center, 1972
2. Total [natural] hybrid cattail (T. X glauca) stands reached 15 tons per acre (33.6 t/ha)
Beule, John D. 1979. Control and management of cattails in southeastern Wisconsin wetlands. Tech. Note 301. Denver CO: W.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.
3. Two years after germination, common cattail may spread over an area of 624 square feet (58 sq m).
Grace, James B.; Wetzel, Robert G. 1982 Variations in growth and reproduction within populations of two rhizomatous plant species: Typha latifolia and Typha angustifolia, Oecolegia. 53: 258-263. [17682]
4. Sight Characteristics: Common cattail grows just about anywhere that soil remains wet, saturated, or flooded most of the growing season
Grace, James B.; Harrison, Janet S. 1986. The biology of Canadian weeds. 73. Typha latifolia L., Typha anguestifolia L. and Typha xglauca Godr. Canadian Journal of Plant Sicence. 66: 361-379. [17673]
5. Cattail stands produce enormous quantities of litter. Established stands tend to grow on soils with high amounts of organic matter. Common cattail may also grow on fine-textured mineral soils, but the oils often have organic matter incorporated into at least the surface horizons.
Padgett, Wayne G.: Youngblood, Andrew P.: Winward, Alma H. 1989, Riparian community type classification of Utah and southeastern Idaho. R4-Ecol-89-01. Ogden, UT: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Intermountain Region. 191 p. [11360]
6. Once the rhizomes are 35 to 60 cm long, they form shoots. In a single season, approximately 100 shoots and lateral buds are produced.
Holm, L. J; Doll, E. Holm, J Pancho, and J. Herberger. 1997 World Weeds: Natural Histories and Distribution. New Your: John Wiley. 1,129 p.
7. …rhizomes may spread to 2 meters in diameter. After the growing season, a single colony of common cattail may cover 54 square meters with a total rhizome lemgth of 480 meters. (Holm et al, 1997)
8. Although they are available at any time, they are richer in starch at the end of the growing season.
Harrington, H. D. and Y. Matsumura. 1967. Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains. Albuquerque, NM: Univeristy of New Mexico Press 392 p.
9. A few plants may spread to cover an acre.
Fasset, N. C. 1957. A manual of Aquatic Plants. Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison Wis.

Forward Thinking Analysis: Resource Efficiency refers to the conservation of materials, energy, and water. New investigative proposals and feasibility studies now include interactive merging of technological possibilities combining alternative energy resource and adjunctive technology options. Decision-makers use economic and environmental evaluation studies to structure resource efficiency plans with cattail as a primary source of biomass and natural botanical remediation. Options for independent technology to target a singular goal or combined technologies for optimum long-term planning are doable and considered in small scale facility development. Each affordable resource efficiency topic deserves consideration; therefore project estimates build augmented systems with better return-on-investment for equipment purchase selections which also expands available energy supplements in field crop cattail projects.

Studies being conducted by Sustainable Technology Systems (STS) address small and midsized projects with a focus on community and farm scale projects. Pioneering work and methodologies are being disseminated through the efforts of dedicated cattail enthusiasts including Peggy G. Korth for her methodology of field and row crop development in collaboration with Dr. Richard Haard, a cattail propagation specialist and alternative’s promoters such as David Blume. A resurrection of previous investigators is also coming to the forefront at the University of North Carolina.

Cattail Statistics
Over fifty years ago, scientists recognized the benefits of cattails. Facts reported in Science News, December 1955 continue to excite cattail enthusiasts.
A natural stand averages 86,000 stems per acre
Cattail heads contain about 300,000 seeds each
Each seed has an ‘umbrella’ of 40 to 60 hairs to help it fly
There are as much as 140 tons of rhizomes per acre in a natural cattail stand
A growing plant can produce 35 shoots from a rhizome during a growing season
Large natural systems can come from ONE plant (over three acres!)
Cattail seed oil is similar to linseed oil
Cattail meal (processed seed residue) makes excellent cattle feed
Fermenting cattail flour produces ethyl alcohol
The Roman’s called fermented cattail flour ‘the people’s whiskey’.

Sustainable Processes and Services: A collaborative process is the key to good study results. Because the implementation of Cattails to Ethanol and cattails as a biomass resource can embrace a number of technologies, pilot projects become precedent-setting and include a wide variety of immediate value-added benefits. Over two hundred volunteers share the non-profit interchange of Cattail Histhings a monthly ‘open source’ newsletter. Keeping the information ‘open source’ and public allows widespread innovation among small producers globally.

With city supported projects cooperation from a number of different agencies is necessary when merging remediation, biofuels production, soil building, and potential co-product development such as fiber and pulp from biomass collected for biofuels feedstock. Establishing a base line for feasibility comes first with collected facts and data specific to a geographical location. Understanding how various technologies can impact existing infrastructure is as important as cost or implementation.

Technology and Planning—EPA Rulemaking states: “For the first time in a regulatory program, an assessment of greenhouse gas emission performance is being utilized to establish those fuels that qualify for the four different renewable fuel standards.” Emphasis is placed “…to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of petroleum by increasing domestic sources of energy. Based on our lifecycle analysis, we believe that the expanded use of renewable fuels would provide significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide that affect climate change.” Furthermore, “the greenhouse gas emission assessments must evaluate the full lifecycle emission impacts of fuel production including both direct and indirect emissions, including significant emissions from land use changes.” Cattail as both an energy and biomass crop offers viable solutions to these EPA imperatives.

As communities move to a low-carbon future and adapt environmentally related programs infrastructure decisions must revolve around practicality and minimizing energy use. New choices for reasonable solutions to community concerns include community production of basic energy resources for self-reliance. Developing alternative energy sources and utilizing energy efficient technology is the way of the future. Commercializing alternative fuels, efficient technologies, and reducing energy consumption need not involve industry and national assistance. Issues and choices for planning in a low-carbon environment can include utilization of wastewater polishing in conjunction with small-scale commercial co-products.” Cattail as both an energy and biomass crop offers reasonable biomass application in community self-sufficiency action.

Green Chemistry through Natural Resources: Artificial and developed wetlands that include cattail are constructed to improve water quality problems in streams, lakes, and reservoirs including addressing nutrient enrichment, introduction of toxic materials, turbidity and heavy sediment deposition.
[vii] Reduction of multiple and various toxics that challenge wastewater and soil as well as complying with regulatory restrictions requires simple use of cattail growing beds.[viii] Cattail remediation can change problematic levels of nitrates, heavy metals, drugs, and chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers without expensive engineered technology. Update your research by including time-tested application of one of nature’s best remediation resources. Implement ‘Green Chemistry’ through natural resources such as cattail and harvest your biomass to turn a starch rich plant into income-producing co-products.

Performance-based Programs: Numerous small-scale projects now design first step efforts in cost effective performance planning. Forward-thinking planners, town governments, and academia look toward sustainable goals to perpetuate energy conservation, low-cost natural resource implementation, and potential for income producing adjuncts. Environmental leadership begins with projects that can expand in time with proof of profitability or community service. Performance-based programs that evolve while incorporating new income-producing methodologies are a practical way to address change. STS is the first confluence of associates and consultants to offers combined cattail remediation and biomass solutions.

Innovative Approach to Compliance: New regulatory change and adaptability based on emerging EPA guidelines can simultaneously promote cost efficiencies and promote green-house gas equilibrium. In the United States current recovery and stimulus government support offers additional capital to achieve a correct ecological balance. Cattail as a dual remediation and biomass crop offer new approaches to delivering and integrating environmental projects into existing compliance necessities. Consider natural remediation—especially when it offers economic development potential as a part of the plan. Experts dedicated to a new paradigm in community self-sufficiency can demonstrate innovative approaches and tools for most any community wastewater excess, animal feedlot, mining wastewater flows, and desalination to correct a small flow discrepancy. Because cattail is a resilient ‘weed’ most wastewater and a few nearby acres of land offer a dynamic growing opportunity for cattail as biomass.

Integrated Solutions: Pollution prevention and sustainability begin with outcome-oriented feasibility design. Integrated solutions also offer multiple choices in project planning to harness co-product commercialization. The power of collaboration participants includes multiple levels of state compliance and community cooperation with qualified consultants and specialists. Multimillion dollar investments are not a necessity to pilot project and small-scale cattail production. Smaller, cost effective systems allow expansion while producing the income or savings to forward that expansion. Communities and industry can coordinate energy delivery production logistics to merge with existing infrastructure. Discovery of the facts/ data collection with implementation builds a more secure future community by community.

Environmental Champions: Immolate the tenacious cattail and include practical natural botanical biomass in sustainability practices. Outreach starts with education to serve farm and community needs with simple biomass initiatives beyond and before industrial solutions come to dominate regulatory expectations and expense. The will to serve followed by a desire to learn offers solutions; natural botanical solutions must augment the larger industrial efforts. Multiple solutions include local champions working in their communities with grass-roots projects. The root of the cattail is a rich resource. Change the image of a ‘root’ and find new wealth ready to be mined for cost-effective local energy.

Cattails to Ethanol: Networking global volunteers WATER, a non-profit group publishes a number of books to assist the new small and mid-sized community and farm focused interest in bioenergy. To receive the free newsletter, send an email to Bood order information is available at

Books of Interest: Bioenergy Terms Glossary—An in-depth compilation of industry terms

Small Scale Biofuels Production: Vol. 1, Cattails to Ethanol—Documents to address cattail fuel ethanol production and small flow remediation.

Small Scale Biofuels Production: Vol. 2, Bioenergy Business—Education, Outreach, and Training guidebook for small scale bioenergy business

2008 Cattail Histhings Newsletters—50 pages of information exchange with industry interests

Korth’s Evolutionary Methodology: Peggy Korth collaborated with Richard Haard to design a new methodology in cattail biomass farming in 2007 and has published extensively on this subject, which is now being recognized in biotechnical and academic circles. Field grown cattails require saturated soil. Nitrogen-rich wastewater offers the ideal growing solution. To assist new growth, the field should also be treated to inhibit competitive ‘weeds’ and certain microbes. Natural cattails grow best in swales and moist soil or may be grown in a pond. Early but adequate growth in rhizome starches and stalk sugars can be obtained from drained fields. The stalks may be mowed and/ or rhizomes may be gathered similarly to potatoes. Energy efficiency is built into the methodology of crop growing, crop harvesting, biomass processing, and returning cleaner water to local small flows or community water treatment use. Transforming non-potable water into a better quality of water to recharge nature without expensive processing saves money and helps the environment.

Life-cycle Assessments and Results: Cattail as biomass offers carbon sequestering of greenhouse gas emissions through natural green growth. Alternative pulping resources and more environmentally friendly fuel ethanol production directly and positively affect land-use concerns. Benefits of petroleum replacement, supplemental bioenergy, and co-product development bring earth-friendly alternatives to multiple business opportunities. Cattails are a sustainable energy solution for wastewater treatment facilities can establish and implement sustainable energy management practices to reduce energy demand and take advantage of available renewable energy opportunities. Benefits offset the costs of technology investment and application.

Environmental Challenges: Through cattail field crop development, low impact solutions become available to communities and farms to meet environmental challenges in areas that are not always regulated. Consider new options as stressed in a Cattails to Ethanol program. Multi-dimensional issues require multiple metrics in sustainability solutions. Incorporate cattail biomass sustainability and ecosystem considerations when examining alternative approaches that contribute to improved ecosystem and sustainability outcomes.

About Sustainable Technology Systems, Inc. (STS). STS is dedicated to serving small and mid-sized environmental projects with state-of-the art technological advances, integrated renewable energy function, and expert consultation to assure cost efficiencies. Our team of experts includes commercial botanical propagation specialists, assistance from USDA soil specialists, biofuels engineers with over thirty years of experience in the field, alliances with academic and government research organizations, and a dedication to restoring balance in our life-style while preserving a high quality standard-of-living.
Protect your community against fuel shortages, escalating energy costs, small flows contamination and more. Contact Peggy Korth, for more information. 512 757-4499. See for book order info.


[i] Korth, Peggy, Small Scale Biofuels Production: Vol. 1, Cattails to Ethanol, Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources, 2008
[ii] Woodbridge, David D. Ph. D., Cattails as an Alternative Ethanol Energy Source, Pilot Project Report--Department of Energy Study/ Report: Grant No. DE-FG01-81AF-20001
[iii] Rejmankova, Eliska, David E. Bayer, Selection of Native Wetland Plants for Water Treatment of Urban Runoff; University of California, Davis; Technical Completion Reports (University of California, Multi-Campus Research Unit) Paper 769, 1995
[iv] Tilby, Richard, The Tilby Separation System, Company Narrative January 2009
[v] Ethanol Fuel Production and Wastewater Remediation Feasibility Study Proposal for Otero Count, April 2009
[vi] Korth, Peggy, Cattail Histhings Newsletter, Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources, April 2009
[vii] Shutes et al. 1993 as sited in iii
[viii] Rejmankova, Native Wetland Plants, ibid.

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