How Studying Cow Burps is Helping Argentinians Learn about Climate Change

argentine cows

Image from Reuters/Marcos Brindicci

Cow flatulence and its link to climate change has been a favorite topic for us to cover at TreeHugger. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that we'd jump on a Reuters story describing the climatic implications of cow burps.

Researchers in Argentina have been "collecting" cow burps by strapping big, red plastic tanks to their backs. Just as cow farts are a significant source of methane emissions, so are their belches -- combined, the two can account for 800 to 1,000 liters, or roughly 25 to 35 cubic feet, of emissions a day (and that's per cow). To capture the burps, the scientists connect the tanks to the cows' stomachs through a tube. The results of the study led Guillermo Berra of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology to conclude that up to 30% of Argentina's greenhouse gas emissions could be produced by cows. While cow emissions may seem more benign than, say, coal plant emissions, methane is much more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide -- 23 times, to be exact. Taken together, these emissions therefore account for a significant chunk of Argentina's total GHG output.

Berra and his colleagues are developing new diets -- moving them away from grains to plants like alfalfa -- that will be easier to digest and, thus, less prone to generating large quantities of methane. Using tannins, a chemical found in a variety of plants, in the diets has proven effective at reducing emissions by 25%.

For some background on global warming sources in Argentina, read this nice primer from our Buenos Aires correspondent, Paula Alvarado.

Via ::Reuters: Cow burps help Argentines study climate change (news website)

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