Australian researchers are bringing a whole new meaning to ‘surf and turf.’
They’ve been working on a project funded by that country’s Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organization (CSIRO) to use dried seaweed as a supplement in cattle feed to reduce methane emissions from cattle.
They’ve discovered just a small amount of seaweed can mean a drastic reduction.
Rocky De Nys, a professor of aquaculture at James Cook University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the reductions have been as high as 99 per cent.
“We started with 20 species (of seaweed) and we very quickly narrowed that down to one really standout species of red seaweed,” De Nys told ABC.
The species of seaweed is called Asparagopsis taxiformis, and researchers have been actively collecting it off the coast of Queensland.
“We had an inkling that we would get some success from this species, but the scale or the amount of success and reduction we saw was very surprising,” he said.
De Nys said methane gas was the biggest component of greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture industry, and the findings could help alleviate climate change.
He also added that the vast majority of methane comes from the cow’s burp rather than the gas from the other end of the cow.
To test the effectiveness of each individual seaweed species, the CSIRO created an artificial rumen. They collected rumen microbes from inside a cow’s stomach and added typical material from a cow’s diet like grass and other browse, then topped it up with seaweed.
As the microbes went to work, the resulting gases were trapped and measured and sampled.