Cattail Up Date

I have not caught up on the buddingcattail culture for some time so Peggy Korth’s newsletter seems like a goodplace to do so.  She is testing ways tooperate and gaining a lot of empirical know-how.  Google this blog for earlier posts on whythis is all important.

I think that we are converging onsome form of paddy culture similar to rice. It also looks like we can harvest fodder several times during thegrowing season and turn it into silage. It is certainly rich enough.

I think that the roots can beharvested in strips that take half the coverage each fall after the paddies arewell drained.  That leaves a strong rootbase that can completely fill out the next year to the point it needsharvesting.

What we need right now is aprocessing facility able to take product at a fair price and turn it into useableend product.  There is obviously plentyof science here to exploit but we need a driving market to sell into. Fodder mayactually work well.  There are plenty ofplaces were hay is costly and a high production fodder like the cattail wouldmake great economics.

Cattail Histhings

January 2011

Water Assurance Technology Energy Resources 40 Sun Valley Dr., Spring Branch TX 78070 FAX (830)885-4827; Cell: (512) 757-4499 Email:

Hello Baby 2011 Shoots!  A recent telephone call started withexcitement in discovery.
“Hello, Peggy… The dam is repaired. Wastewater effluent is now better contained for a few hours, but we need anon-permeable surface to keep the dike from bursting again under the pressureof the release valve.”

The power and force ofreleased wastewater is tremendous.  Keeping a small earthen deflector inplace to allow the designated cattail growing field to retain wastewater for acouple of hours before it percolates into the ground has been more of a choreand expense than imagined for our cattail field farming.  Our projectallows the release of effluent water from community water treatmentplant toflood our cattail planting area every one-to-two weeks, depending on moisture,weather, and temperatures.  And now the news!

“Little cattail shootsare everywhere.  They are in the area that is designated for growingcattails; they are on the other side of the berm that burst from the waterpressure, they are in last year’s growing area.  The seedling growth isphenomenal since there is only water available every week or two.”

The Test of Time… and Temperature: PKadvises the agricultural technicians who monitor the cattail growing beds…“Take pictures.  Document everything.  Check the growth and the dieback.  Try to understand the difference in surviving shoots and newlydeveloping shoots.  300,000 seeds per seed-head mean that I planted abouta million seeds in an area of 5 feet by 55 feet just under the top layer ofdust and dirt.  The fact that they went everywhere the water went meansthat they floated along with the flow and grounded themselves in the mostopportune places.  With freezing weather forecast we want to know if thefall planting is appropriate even if we plan to re-plant in earnest in thespring.”

           And so it goes…  This is what is happening in our field observations forour 4500 foot altitude desert field planting.  But… there is a lotmore.  We used four different soil blends and also a number of matureplants in each section of augmented soil which are scrutinized for growth anddevelopment.

           Perhaps the most relevant observation is that the transplanted cattails showsignificant rhizome development during the dormant season—little fingerlingsshooting out in the cold dirt.  And even better yet!!! The starch contentis high!

Please let us know alittle something about your observations—or are you just reading and not outthere getting dirty.  Let’s see your fingernails.  If you come homewith a little soil underneath, then you are among the blessed.

Planting Tips: How do you encourage and discipline a child: praise? Punishment?Reward? Encouraging self-approval?  Ok, how do you plant cattails? Answer: the same.
  • Move mature plants with mud on the rhizomes into a new wet area
  • Hack out whatever biomass you can and move it all in a lump
  • Let the fluff fly where it may
  • Carefully move mature plants into a hospitable environment
  • Chop and re-plant into moist ground
  • Mix seeds with dirt and sand to give the seeds weight and let them stay grounded.
  • Only plant in a pond or with a crown of water
  • Nurture plants in their original environment and harvest in strips so that they can re-grow
  • Move muck and mud cattail laden goop into a new lined planting bed
  • Grow either small plants or seedlings and seeds in hydroponic containers
  • Grow small plants on floating artificial beds that can be lifted out for harvesting
  • Grow small plants on biomass sheets that can raised with heavy equipment

Each and every one of these can work! And I have email from people who have tried and are trying variations on all ofthese themes.  This is not rocket science.  These cattail weeds aretenacious and often grow with greater vigor in harsh conditions. Actually, we are finding that the more hostile the conditions (up to a point),the better the starch.

Patents by People of Interest: Whoa!  Why?  Now… take it easyand give up the greed.  Nature has all we need if only we will look. Cattail Histhings shares much information to pique your imaginations andinterests.  Yes, the research staff is close to a number of break-throughprocesses and we give information to you with NO restrictions!  There is aloyalty to mankind to keep the populace self-sufficient and without homage topolitical restraints or greedy controllers.  And that is why we share somuch information in our missiles.  Let’s understand that every venturerequires support and dedicated people need to make a living.

           And now understand that there can be proprietary formulae and special treatmentthat requires on-site consultation and demonstration.  To keep on keepingon, actual one-on-one discussions about a particular project may be a ‘paid’service by successful operators.  And we welcome those of you who aresuccessful to toot your horn.  Thanks for sharing.  We are pleased tooffer your individualized contact information when it fits the overallobjectives of this non-profit news sharing—supporting clean air, clean water,and clean energy.

Has Anyone Actually Produced Fuel Ethanol From Cattails?  A familiarquestion…
People often email that they are producingfuel ethanol from cattails.  My mentor made fuel ethanol from cattails inhis university labs.  Last year I made cattail beer with significantalcohol content without distilling.  Note: It is legal to make beer andlearn the steps prior to distilling.  And now I am permitted, so I alsodistill. 

New Distilling Operation:  The Sustainable Technology Systems (afor-profit consulting and research company) is performing a number of cattailexperiments at this time.  The Chief Science Officer, a biochemist and Iare testing a number of cattail production products such as a pre-conditioner,phases of enzyme action, multiple yeast combinations, novel yeast nutrients,and environmental variations.  We also have bench-top distilling as well asan operational small-scale distillery.  Yes, we are distilling.  Andwe have a number of challenges to conquer.  For one thing, our beer is notclear enough.  Filtration takes time and attention. Suggestions anyone?

Who is Graham?  Recently I was told that someone named Graham Finny in New York is sellingequipment and cattail ethanol production strategies.  Great!  Willsomeone please share data or proof-of-concept so that we can congratulate himand embrace his success?  Return-on –investment and cost-effectiveoperation are important to all levels of production.  Many people seem tobe making claims lately.  Thanks for sharing results.  In our STSlabs we stick to our research protocol and data comparisons as empirical andtrustworthy.  What do you know?

Lordy, Lordy, We Finally Passed Forty: Finding 44% polysaccharides in ourlatest plant tissue analysis is a great impetus for success.  Alarger commercial still is ready for set-up in the STS New Mexico site where wedo our research during the warmer months.   New Mexico test fields are plowed andpartially planted.  We are growing cattails.  Life is good. Thank you, Lord.

The Reality of Ratios: Investigating subspecies (natural hybrids)for the ideal stalk to rhizome ratio bring a number of factors into focus. Studying corn for several hundred years and a bushel of government fundsplus academic investigation greatly increased fuel ethanol production fromcorn.  Our group supports all alternative and renewablefuel projects.  Additional feedstock choices can supplement any fuel ethanolproduction in small scale or mid-sized production.  

Fortune in a Flotilla: I am receiving more and more email aboutpeople interested in floating cattail beds.  Some are experimenting andothers want to experiment.  A group out west is interested in theremediation service of a floating cattail bed.  STS provides consultationservices for such projects based on experience and research.  Be cautiousin assumptions.  Ponded water without flow turned into an incubator forpathogens without effective in remediation.  However water with flow andcattails was tremendous in pathogen elimination! 

Optimizing Cellulosic Science: Because cattails have such a variety ofbeneficial uses, many projects request combining function.  Whenconsidering cellulosic use of cattail biomass, first consider the leaves andpossibly save the stalks or stems for pulp and fiber if there is abundanttonnage.  The current pre-conditioning steps under experimentation greatlyinfluence cellulosic and lignin impact.  More  reports follow as newtrials are completed during the next months….

Too Tough in the Tangle: One group of experimenters that madefloating mats for cattails said that they need a very sharp slicing mechanismto cut the plants from the mats enabling re-use of the mats.  Investmentsin floating gardens for planted mats can be expensive.  Another suggestionfrom our propagation specialist is to work with additional semi-aquaticplants.  And so let’s think outside of a confined ‘cattail only’ arena.

As far as fast growthgoes, the fastest growing cellulosic plants that I am aware of are duck weedand kudzu.  How can we maximize their biological propensities? Furthermore, will the trials with algae waste prove viable once the oil isextracted? Our super biochemist who has worked in both fuel ethanol researchand as an industry supplier meets to brainstorm processing of all of the above.

Starting with a usablesugar or starch seems to potentiate most any biomass into a better yield. Needless to say, time and expense are at a premium as we all have co-lateralprojects and responsibilities.  Discoveries excite us and we continue toshare findings.  The yeasts are happy.  The enzymes are useful. The preconditioning seems to be working—at least in microbial control andturning a fibrous mass into mush.  So what else do we need?  Time tocollect data and the money to run trials—just like everyone else.

Talk, talk, talk….  A recent phone call discussed a well-known fuel ethanolenthusiast commenting on protein in cattails but without references. Quoting Cattail Histhings, should accompany reference material anddisclaimers.  A 2006 study from the University of Kansas on cattails ascattle feed mentions protein benefits and another academic report on cattailprotein mentions breakdown as returning nutrients to the soil.  And,therefore, we recommend that before mentioning potential benefits, it would bewise to find the source so that the beneficial use of co-products is selectedaccording to the processors needs and re-application.  When discussingprotein consider benefits for nutrition or soil health.  Commercialsystems to extract proteins are available.
Contact for moreinfo.

Improve Strategic Planning: The time is right to plan your fuel ethanolprojects for the spring, summer, and fall.   Steps to success startwith an outline.  Smart growth can be a one-man show or involve yourrural community.  Assistance is often available when your circle ofinterest includes more cooperative interests.  Check out the following:

The InternationalCity/County Management Association (ICMA) has released a new report, “PuttingSmart Growth to Work in Rural Communities,” which focuses on how to adapt smartgrowth strategies to rural communities. Funded by the U.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, the report focuses on smartgrowth strategies that can help guide growth in rural areas while protectingnatural and working lands and preserving the rural character of existingcommunities.

  • Keep up with the state-of-the-art in agriculture and food systems–based community development

  • Get background on emerging issues

  • Learn best practices in developing local and regional nutritional supplement options

  • Share your own views and experiences
Contribute to theemerging field of nutrition enhancement

The strategies are based around threecentral goals:

1.      Support therural landscape by creating an economic climate that enhances the viability ofworking lands and conserves natural lands;

2.      Help existingplaces to thrive by taking care of assets and investments such as downtowns,Main Streets, existing infrastructure, and places valued by the community; and

3.      Create greatnew places by building vibrant, enduring neighborhoods and communities thatpeople, especially young people, don’t want to leave.

           The report uses case studies from around the country to illustrate how localgovernments, states, and non-profits have successfully implemented smart growthstrategies to support rural lands, revitalize existing communities, and creategreat new places for residents and visitors.  Download the full report ororder a hard copy, visit:

Interested?  What to do next: Do you recommend any type of yeast and aplace to get it?

PK Answers: Check items of interest at It is always nice to hear from one of our fuel ethanol enthusiasts.  Youseem to be on the right track by starting with something easy and then movingforward one step at a time.  It is easy to get a fuel ethanolpermit.  A permit for moonshine may not be possible.  You canpractice making beer before you ever get to distilling.  Of course beermaking is practical with an unfamiliar feedstock.  Grains and otherstandard feedstock for fuel ethanol production (or any alcoholic beverage) havenumerous books, articles, and forum comments to help you along the way. If you can find a person in your area that makes beer as a beverage, then askto watch or go to a local brew shop and sign up for a lesson.  Beer makinglessons cost about $20.00 in this area.  Most often the attendees are beerlovers and that is fine.  New brewers ask good questions and you will learnthe vocabulary.  Then if possible find someone who has distilled and watchwhat they do—preferably on a still similar to the one you plan to use.

Please Send Copies of Cattail Histhings: We get requests for previous copies ofour newsletters.  A summary answer… Back copies of Cattail Histhings areprinted in annual newsletter format—a sort of a paper book.  An order formis in this newsletter.  We look forward to hearing form some of you sothat we can offer more interesting topics.

Best wishes,

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