Science News 04/04/2011

To reduce in methane emissions with more milk production

Research carried out by Aberystwyth University in conjunction with Compton Group found that by adding sandalwood to animal feed the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the rumen is reduced

Research carried out by academics from Aberystwyth University in conjunction with Compton Group, an SME based in Swansea, has resulted in a discovery which could lead both to an improvement in milk and meat production and to a significant reduction in methane emissions from cattle and sheep.

The research team, led by Professor Jamie Newbold of Aberystwyth University, found that by adding sandalwood (or a sandalwood analogue) to animal feed the growth of pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli and Listeria in the rumen is reduced. As a consequence, energy which would otherwise be lost through the production of methane is diverted to increased milk and meat production.

At the same time there was a significant reduction in the emission of methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the global warming potential of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. It is estimated that livestock produce 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all forms of transport combined.

Trials in a rumen simulating fermenter (Rusitec) confirmed that Javanol, a sandalwood analogue, reduced methane production by up to 25%. A reduction of 20% in methane emissions was achieved in field trials with sheep when 2ml of Javanol per day was added to their diet.

Other members of the research team are Dr Kenton Hart, previously of Aberystwyth University (and now at Harper Adams University College), and Dr Ahmed Ali, Research Director of the Compton Group, who is based at The School of Biosciences of Cardiff University. More detail on the research can be found in the international patent application (PCT/GB2009/001547).

“This is an exciting discovery in two ways,” said Dr Ahmed Ali. “Firstly, there would be benefits to the agricultural industry through increased milk and meat production: this increase in productivity would be set against a background of growing pressures on global food supply. Secondly, there could be a significant reduction in methane emissions.”

“Overall, the project is a good example of a University and an SME collaborating on cutting edge research. If this project and projects like this, can be commercialised in global markets, that has to be the way forward for the knowledge economy of Wales.”

di S. C.