Cows could be selectively bred to cut their significant contribution to global warming in half, researchers have proposed.
Livestock are responsible for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the majority stemming from beef and milk production, largely because flatulent, belching cattle emit so much methane. Researchers have previously looked at tweaking their diet to reduce these emissions, such as by adding seaweed.
But now there might be a long-term solution, as it appears that a core group of gut microbes play a key role in how much methane a cow produces. The bacteria are closely correlated to the cows’ genetic makeup, suggesting the drivers for emissions are passed down through generations.
“Because of the heritability, it should be possible using that information to breed animals for low emissions and increased productivity,” says John Wallace of the University of Aberdeen, UK, who led the research. The microbiome of herds could be sequenced and individual animals with high emissions selectively bred out. Eliminating the worst offenders in the microbiome could cut methane by 50 per cent, Wallace says.Read more
Source web page: New Scientist