One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions.
Asparagopsis grows on the coast of Australia, and cows actually seek it out and eat it without encouragement. Replacing 2% of cows' feed with Asparagopsis is sufficient to end their methane production.
Researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast are trying to ramp up Asparagopsis production to scale to meet a potential global market for it.
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 goal of informing a scale-up of production that could supplement cow feed on a national—and even 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.
Burp-free cow feed drives seaweed science at USC [University of the Sunshine Coast]