Feed cows dried seaweed to reduce greenhouse gases

Research from north Queensland could massively reduce the negative damage the agricultural industry causes to the global environment.

Rocky De Nys, the professor of aquaculture at James Cook University (JCU) in Townsville, is part of the CSIRO study analysing the effect that seaweed has on the amount of methane a cow produces. The researchers discovered that adding some dried seaweed to the diet of a cow could reduce the amount of methane they produce almost entirely. De Nys said that they started out with 20 species of seaweed and experimented until they discovered the best seaweed for the job; Asparagopsis Taxiformis.

Professor De Nys says that methane gas makes up the majority of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the agriculture industry. He also believes the findings could have a positive effect on climate change. He also corrected the popular myth and clarified that cows emit more methane gas from their mouths than their rear ends.

Method steps:

  1. Make an artificial cow’s stomach using pieces of real cow stomach
  2. Collect some microbe-filled rumen fluid
  3. Add grass and other substrates to the rumen fluid
  4. Add dried seaweed and let it ferment
  5. Measure methane levels in the gases produced from the fermentation process
  6. Refine method to find the best results and test on real animals

The researchers have already had some success with sheep. By making 2% of the sheep’s diet asparagopsis then they would produce between 50 and 70% less methane over a three-day period. This shows precedent that it would work with cows.

Research into the effects the seaweed would have on cattle productions will be conducted at CSIRO Lansdown and the trials will last through to mid-2017.

Logistically, would feeding dried seaweed work?

It would be too expensive to harvest wild seaweed and there isn’t enough out there, so where will they get it?

There are a few options such as:

  • Partner up with people who are able to cultivate seaweed themselves
  • Team up with allies in South-East Asia, where seaweed is already being farmed by the tonne
  • Attempt to create their own seaweed cultivating industry somewhere in Australia.

To summarise, watch this space!

Source: ABC News

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