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Grant to fund research at Penn State on reducing methane emissions from livestock

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Foundation for Food and Agriculture has awarded a grant to a team in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences to fund research aimed at reducing enteric, or intestinal, methane emissions from cows and sheep, using plant and fungal sources.

The foundation will provide a grant from its Seeding Solutions program of $455,704 to team leader Alexander Hristov, distinguished professor of dairy nutrition, to investigate a feed additive to reduce enteric methane in ruminants. Purina Animal Nutrition is providing matching funds for a total $914,543 investment.

Hristov — an international leader in research related to enteric methane emissions from livestock — and colleagues will conduct research into using a non-synthetic form of the anti-methanogenic compound 3-nitro-1-propionic acid, or 3-NPA, as a feed additive.

Through a series of tests done in a laboratory, as well as on living sheep and lactating dairy cows, Hristov and his team will determine the ideal dietary and biological conditions, in addition to 3-NPA doses and sources, required to reduce enteric methane emissions.

Preliminary data have shown a considerable methane-mitigating potential of 3-NPA at practical inclusion rates, Hristov noted.

“The grant from the foundation, 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,” he said.

The project is testing both the efficacy of using a natural source of 3-NPA, as well as a sustainable, cost-effective method for delivering it from fungal and plant sources, Hristov explained. “A natural additive that could be used by both conventional and organic producers and does not diminish production will help fill the need for an effective enteric methane mitigation strategy for ruminant livestock,” he said.

Enteric methane is the single largest source of direct greenhouse gas emissions in the beef and dairy sectors, representing 2.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Microbes in the digestive system of four-chambered-stomach animals — ruminants like cattle and sheep —produce methane through the digestion of forages and concentrate feeds.

“Ranchers and producers need effective methods to mitigate enteric methane emissions, as there are currently few sustainably produced, cost-effective options,” said Saharah Moon Chapotin, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture. “This project investigates a novel way to move the dairy and beef industries toward net zero emissions to reach sustainability goals.”

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