July 2, 2013
Biotechnology Can Help Lessen The Effects Of Cow Farts
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
To help feed the world's growing population, the agriculture industry is researching new technologies. The real challenge, however, is feeding the world without harming air quality.
"We are increasing the amount of product with same input," said Clayton Neumeier, PhD student at UC Davis, in a recent statement.
The study, published in the journal Animal Frontiers, describes a recent experiment in which a test group of cattle were treated using biotechnologies. Two groups were implanted with Ionophores and Beta-adrenergic agonists respectively - biotechnologies that help cattle grow more efficiently. A third control group was not treated at all.
By placing finishing steers in a special corral that traps emissions, researchers measured gas output. The groups were tested four times each to ensure accurate results.
The research team also tested a dairy biotechnology called rBST - a synthetic version of a cattle hormone that does not affect humans. Many dairy producers use rBST to help the cows produce more milk. The team injected one group of cattle with rBST and did not inject a control group.
The rBST group was found to produce more milk per cow than the control group. An increase in milk production decreases greenhouse gas emissions because farmer's need fewer cows to meet the same production.
Animal agriculture has reduced emissions through the use of such technologies, said Dr. Kim Stackhouse, National Cattlemen's Beef Association Director of Sustainability. Biotechnologies have been used to improve animal performance, crop yields and manure management. These technologies, along with the installation of biogas recovery systems, have all contributed to reducing the environmental impact of beef.
Energy is produced from animal wastes using biogas recovery systems in processing facilities. Wastes are collected in lagoons, where the biogas is captured then transported through an internal combustion area that produces energy for heat and electricity.
"I expect there to be more improvement as we continue to be more efficient, continue to do more with less and also strive to find new improvement opportunities," Stackhouse said.
Many consumers have concerns over the use of biotechnology in food production. These consumers are unaware of the benefits of such biotechnology, says Neumeier, stating his research reveals biotechnology can produce more food and lower gas emissions.
"We need to inform them that these are valuable tools for those two reasons and not be turned off by the use of biotechnology," Neumeier said.