Reducing Methane in Manure with Red Sea Plume Algae

Adding red sea plume algae to a cow's diet can reduce methane emissions in manure.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Adding red sea plume algae to a cow’s diet can reduce methane emissions in manure. Image: Pixabay

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Red Sea Plume Algae is now being used in beef cattle production to reduce the methane emitted by the animals.

Dairy and beef production has a significant impact on climate change. This is because of the substantial amounts of methane cows produce when they digest their food. Cows are ruminant animals that regurgitate and chew their food after swallowing it. They emit methane both through their digestion process and through their waste. Manure production in Europe is estimated to be responsible for approximately 12 percent of total methane emissions from the dairy system.  

Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps approximately 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. While it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long, it’s important to combat sources of methane because of its powerful warming effect. Moreover, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled over the last two centuries because of the increase in animal agriculture. Cows, overall, produce around 37% of the overall methane emissions.  

There have been many attempts from dairy farmers all over the globe to reduce these impacts. Notably, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry announced they would put their cattle on a special diet to reduce methane emissions. Now, scientists from the Sweden University of Agricultural Sciences have discovered they can cut greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cows’ manure by almost half. The secret? Adding red sea plume algae to the cow’s manure.  

Red sea plume algae are usually found in tropical, warm waters. The algae produce a bioactive compound called bromoform which prevents methane formation by inhibiting a specific enzyme in the cow’s gut during the digestion feed. The red sea plume algae is the most promising natural methane inhibitor.  

During testing, the scientists found that when the red sea plume algae were added to the cow’s manure, it cut down the methane emitted during decomposition by 44 per cent. This is the first time that the addition of algae has been studied in cow manure but a study published in 2019 found that feeding cows seaweed reduced their methane emissions by up to 82%. The study also found that the seaweed did not affect the cows’ growth or milk production.

The potential benefits of feeding cows algae and seaweed are significant. If all cows were fed this type of diet, it could reduce global methane emissions by up to 1 gigatonne per year. This would be equivalent to taking 200 million cars off the road.

Including algae in cows’ diets can also reduce the methane emissions in their burps. One cow belches out 220 pounds of methane yearly, the greenhouse gas equivalent of burning over 900 gallons of gasoline. Mixing in small amounts of the algae can reduce the methane in cow burps by 82 per cent by inhibiting enzymes in the cow’s digestive system. Scientists found that by adding about 80 grams of the algae to the cow’s diet over five months, they gained the same amount of weight but burped out less methane.  

Much testing still needs to be done, as red sea plume algae can increase iodine levels in dairy cows’ milk. Too much iodine can cause issues like thyroid problems, which are toxic in high concentrations. Researchers are working on engineering a strain of the red sea plume algae with less iodine.  

Hopefully, this is only one of many more studies to analyze how we can reduce methane emissions from cow manure. There is a promise that we can use naturally produced algae to reduce emissions in cow burps and their manure production. These discoveries will be important to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change.  

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for exclusive content, original stories, activism awareness, events and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support Us.

Happy Eco News will always remain free for anyone who needs it. Help us spread the good news about the environment!