STATE COLLEGE, Pa., Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Gas expelled by cows accounts for more than a quarter of anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States. Sleep, eat and fart -- such is the life of an American dairy cow.
It's good potty humor inspiration, but it's also a problem. Though not as abundant as CO2, methane has greater greenhouse gas warming effect on the atmosphere.
That's why researchers at Penn State University are excited by a synthetic additive they say will counter bovine gassiness. Researchers at the school showed that when dairy cows were fed 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) over a three-month period, the animals expelled 30 percent less methane.
The chemical works by blocking methyl coenzyme-M reductase, a digestive enzyme produced by an intestinal microbes which cows break down their fiber-rich diet.
Scientists, who shared their recent test results in the journal PNAS, say the additive is safe for cows and the environment. Animals receiving the chemical were also found to gain weight.
"When we feed an animal, [about] 7 percent of the energy in the feed is gone as methane," lead researcher Alexander N. Hristrov said in a press release. "Anytime you save a little bit of that, it can be used for other purposes the animal needs, such as producing milk."
As politicians look to curb greenhouse emissions in the energy sector, a variety of climate-conscious researchers continue to look for ways to make American agriculture more eco-friendly.
"Agriculture is a key methane source in the U.S.," added Scot Miller, a fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science. "Policymakers will likely need to take a multifaceted approach to reduce net U.S. methane emissions. I hope that the work presented in this paper will give us another tool to add to that toolbox."