Supergrass Would Reduce Methane Emissions from Cows
When we think of what could be te biggest form of pollution in the world, we rarely think of cattle as one of them. But these seemingly docile creatures have a darker side to them. On average, some 22 people in the US are killed by cows. However, this number is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the damage these oblivious cows do to the world.
To date, there are over 1.4 billion cows in the world, and each of them produces between 250 and 500 liters of methane gas per day. Who would have thought that farting and burping cows would have any serious impact on the environment? Well, it does, and in a really big way! Methane gas, as some of us know, is up to 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. And cattle produce some 26 percent of all methane in the atmosphere in the US. That’s almost as much as oil and gas production – 29 percent – according to the 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.
In order to combat this dire situation as best as possible, aside from people trying to stop eating beef, scientists from Denmark’s Aarhus University, in partnership with seed company DLF were able to develop a type of supergrass which is easier for animals to digest.
A scientist in the university’s Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Torben Asp, said that it’s far easier and cost effective to tinker with the DNA in order to create a low-methane supergrass than to using conventional means of trial and error, ultimately producing a hybrid with the desired characteristics. This method used here is not a GMO, by the way, since It was developed through ordinary breeding assisted by genomic selection.
“It is simply a better diet for the cow, which can utilize the feed more efficiently and therefore does not emit so much methane gas when it burps,” he told Berlinske, according to a Google translation.
Scientists in charge of its development say the supergrass will be in use by 2024. This new food source for cattle will hopefully work better than the other methods tried in the past. These methods included adding nitrogen to cattle feed, which reduces methane emissions by 70 percent but harmed the animal’s red cells. Or to selectively breed cows which burped less, but here scientists found that this interfered with the cows’ fertility and overall health. Also, it was tried to add a tea extract in cattle feed which curbed the methane output, but the animals rejected it, probably because it tasted bad.
However, the best way to curb this trend is for the average person to stop eating beef as much as possible and instead opt for a chicken and vegetable diet.