Anti-burp seaweed could cut GHGs by 10%


Friday, 16 August, 2019

Anti-burp seaweed could cut GHGs by 10%

Researchers from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) are studying a type of seaweed that stops cows from expelling methane. The puffy pink seaweed called Asparagopsis grows abundantly along the Queensland coast and is currently being primed for mass farming.

USC Seaweed Research Group leader Associate Professor Nick Paul said that if Australia could grow enough of the seaweed for every cow in Australia, the country could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.

“Seaweed is something that cows are known to eat. They will actually wander down to the beach and have a bit of a nibble,” Dr Paul said.

“When added to cow feed at less than 2% of the dry matter, this particular seaweed completely knocks out methane production. It contains chemicals that reduce the microbes in the cows’ stomachs that cause them to burp when they eat grass.”

The seaweed’s ability to mitigate methane production was described in a CSIRO-led study in 2014. The USC team is working at the Bribie Island Research Centre in Moreton Bay to learn more about how to grow the seaweed species, with the aim of upscaling production so that it can be added to cow feed on a national, or potentially global, scale.

“This seaweed has caused a lot of global interest and people around the world are working to make sure the cows are healthy, the beef and the milk are good quality,” Dr Paul said.

“That’s all happening right now. But the one missing step, the big thing that is going to make sure this works at a global scale, is to make sure we can produce the seaweed sustainably.”

Project scientist Ana Wegner said the team’s challenge was to find the perfect growing conditions to move crops from the laboratory to large outdoor aquaculture tanks.

“We know the chemical composition of Asparagopsis and we know the chemical compounds that actually reduce methane production in cows, so now we want to maximise the concentration of that chemical so we can use less seaweed for the same effect,” Wegner said.

Image credit: © University of the Sunshine Coast

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