Sunday, February 10, 2019

Greenhouse gas from livestock cut by over half in pilot study

Seaweed could make cows burp less methane and cut their carbon hoofprint - MIT Technology Review - James Temple:

November 23, 2018 - "In a wooden barn on the edge of campus at the University of California, Davis, ... Holstein dairy cows participated in a study to test a promising path to reducing methane emissions from livestock, a huge source of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. By adding a small amount of seaweed to the animals’ feed, researchers found, they could cut the cows’ methane production by nearly 60%.

"Each year, livestock production pumps out greenhouse gases with the equivalent warming effect of more than 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same global impact as the transportation industry. Nearly 40% of that is produced during digestion: cattle, goats, and sheep belch and pass methane, a highly potent, albeit relatively short-lived, greenhouse gas.

"If the reductions achieved in the UC Davis study could be applied across the worldwide livestock industry, it would eliminate nearly 2 gigatons of those emissions annually — about a quarter of United States’ total climate pollution.... Ermias Kebreab, an animal science professor at UC Davis who leads the work, is preparing to undertake a more ambitious study....

"In 2014, Australian researchers found that low doses of a red algae known as Asparagopsis taxiformis virtually eliminated methane production in lab experiments. Field trials with live sheep cut emissions as much as 80%, while the UC Davis experiment, the first on live cattle, showed a 58% reduction on average when a related seaweed made up 1% of their diet....

"Australis Aquaculture, a producer of ocean-farmed Asian sea bass based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, is attempting ... through a research project in Vietnam, dubbed Greener Grazing ... to grow seaweed off the coast of Vietnam. The plants would be placed within the type of plastic tube netting used to grow oysters, and suspended a few feet underwater — just deep enough to be protected from waves, but close enough to the sun for photosynthesis to drive growth.

"Meanwhile, DSM, the giant Dutch conglomerate, is working on a synthetic additive for the cows. A paper its researchers coauthored found that a methane inhibitor known as 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3NOP, cut emissions by 30% in lactating Holsteins ... milk production wasn’t affected during the 12-week experiment, and as a bonus, the “spared methane energy” helped generate tissue, resulting in higher body weights. DSM Nutritional Products ... has already applied for US Food and Drug Administration approval to sell it in the United States."

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