Building Team Chemistry: The Bigger Picture Behind Cows & Climate
Animal Biology Graduate Student, UC Davis
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. According to the UN environment Programme, “over a 20-year period, it is 80 times more potent at global warming than carbon dioxide. Methane has accounted for roughly 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times and is proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s. In fact, according to data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, even as carbon dioxide emissions decelerated during the pandemic-related lockdowns of 2020, atmospheric methane shot up.”
Enteric methane is the single largest source of direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the beef and dairy sectors, representing 2.5% of total U.S. GHG emissions. Microbes in the digestive system of four-chambered-stomach animals, called ruminants, like cattle and sheep, produce methane through the digestion of forages and concentrate feeds.
New approaches to livestock production are needed to lower the amounts of agriculture-generated methane to limit global warming to 1.5°C, a target of the Paris climate change agreement.
To address this persistent environmental concerns, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research is awarding a $455,704 Seeding Solutions grant to Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) to reduce enteric methane emissions from ruminants using plant and fungal sources. Purina Animal Nutrition is providing matching funds for a total $914,543 investment. But it takes only about a decade for methane to break down. So, reducing methane emissions now would have an impact in the near term and is critical for helping keep the world on a path to 1.5
Ranchers and producers urgently need effective methods to mitigate enteric methane emissions, as methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and there are currently few sustainably-produced, cost-effective options. This project investigates a novel way to move the dairy and beef industries toward net zero emissions to reach climate neutrality.Nikki Dutta
Scientific Program Officer
Our preliminary data have shown a considerable methane mitigating potential of 3-NPA at practical inclusion rates” said Hristov. This grant, in collaboration with our industry partner, Purina Animal Nutrition, will allow us to investigate the possibilities of enhancing 3-NPA content in plant and fungal sources, determine feasible application methods and propose an effective enteric methane mitigation option to livestock producers.Dr. Alexander N. Hristov
Penn State Distinguished Professor of Dairy Nutrition
Led by Penn State distinguished professor of dairy nutrition, Dr. Alexander N. Hristov, researchers are investigating using a non-synthetic form of an anti-methanogenic compound, 3-nitro-1-propionic acid (3-NPA), as a feed additive to reduce enteric methane in ruminants. Through a series of tests done in vitro in a laboratory and on living sheep and lactating dairy cows, Hristov and his team are determining the ideal dietary and biological conditions, as well as 3-NPA sources and doses, required to reduce the maximum methane.
This project is testing both the efficacy of using a naturally sourced methane-suppressing compound, as well as a sustainable, cost-effective method for delivering it from fungal and plant sources. Identifying a natural additive that could be used by both conventional and organic producers and does not diminish production will help fill the critical need for an effective enteric methane mitigation strategy from ruminant livestock.
As an inclusive organization, we host Insights from thought leaders across for food and agriculture community on DEI. Learn more about their unique experiences and perspectives.
The latest news and updates from FFAR.
Tools, technologies and strategies from the research we fund.