Scientists at Gramina, a joint biotech venture by Australia’s Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre and New Zealand rural services group PGG Wrightson Genomics, are developing a grass that will not only cut the amount of methane cows burp up when chewing the cud but also grow in hotter climes.
This means that farmers should be able to maintain dairy herds’ productivity and profitability in the face of a changing climate, while cutting down their gaseous burps and reducing their contribution to global warming.
Combating greenhouse gas emissions produced by the agricultural industry is a priority. The UK’s DEFRA has just announced a roadmap aimed at helping the dairy industry reduce its potential impact on the environment in line with Britain’s target to cut its greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2010. By 2015 the roadmap plans to have 20-30% of milk producers trialling new technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculates that methane makes up 14.3% of humanity’s contribution to global warming and data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US shows that atmospheric methane levels may be rising again after a 10 year period of stability. A single dairy cow can produce between 550-700L of methane a day and it has been estimated that methane from cattle in the UK could account for as much as 3% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Cows’ production of methane is down to the microflora in their gut that helps them to digest their food. As these microbes break down the grass’ cellulose, methane is produced as a by-product, the majority of which is burped up.
David Beever, international nutrition director of Richard Keenan UK, said: ‘You don’t actually hear the cows burp, but they are permanently releasing methane.’
Gramina will use sense suppression technology to prevent the expression of the enzyme O-methyl transferase. Suppressing this enzyme leads to an increase in the digestibility of the grass without compromising its structural properties and therefore less burps and less methane.
Gramina has already tested this modification in temperate grasses in the lab and glasshouses and is now planning field trials.
However, some scientists suggest that a cow’s absolute methane emissions might go up.
Alistair Macrae, a lecturer in farm animal health and production at the University of Edinburgh, UK, says a diet too rich in highly digestible carbs can actually increase the amount of methane a cow belches out. This is because gut microflora convert more of these sugars into propionic acid, which creates a more acidic environment resulting in more methane.
Ian Givens, a professor of animal science, at the University of Reading, UK, says that more digestible forage could push up a cow’s absolute methane emissions but productivity gains would mean less methane per unit of milk.
Beever agrees and says, ‘It could increase methane emissions but it could also increase milk yields, effectively cutting the amount of methane produce per litre of milk.’
Meral Nugent | alfa
For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)
New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy