Could feeding farm animals seaweed curb methane emissions?
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast seem to think so; revealing in a new study that this could slash emissions by up to 30%.
Using native Irish and British seaweeds, the researchers have found that not only would the alternative food reduce the amount of methane emitted through flatulence and excretion but also would have health benefits for the animals.
Seaweed has compounds called phlorotannins within it, which are antibacterial and could improve animal immunity.
The University is working alongside supermarket Morrisons on a three-year project to feed cattle British and Irish seaweed monitoring the results.
There is also a second €2 million (£1.7m) project set to start next year, between scientists at the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) and the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), investigating the environmental impacts of eating seaweed on dairy cows in Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, methane accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, with 80% of that coming from agriculture – the scientists feel this solution could be a key solution to mitigating the industry’s impact on the climate, whilst protecting animal welfare.
Sharon Huws, IGFS lead, said: “Using seaweed is a natural, sustainable way of reducing emissions and has great potential to be scaled up. There is no reason why we can’t be farming seaweed – this would also protect the biodiversity of our shorelines.
“If UK farmers are to meet a zero carbon model, we really need to start putting this kind of research into practice. I hope IGFS and AFBI research can soon provide the necessary data and reassurance for governments to take forward.”