Cows sent to the "little corner" to reduce greenhouse gases

According to Elliffe, the nitrogen in cow urine breaks down over time into two problematic substances: nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and nitrate, which builds up in the soil. then seeps into rivers and streams.

DScientists claim to have succeeded in training cows to urinate in toilets, as part of a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The New Zealand and German team of researchers had to admit it: the experiment started off as a joke, but managing nitrogen-rich bovine urine could have real climate benefits in the long run. “If we could collect 10 or 20 percent of the urine, that would be enough to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nitrate leaching,” said Douglas Elliffe of the University of Auckland.

According to Elliffe, the nitrogen in cow urine breaks down over time into two problematic substances: nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and nitrate, which builds up in the soil. then seeps into rivers and streams. Nitrous oxide accounts for around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions and just under 10% of New Zealand’s emissions, according to official figures, and more than half is related to livestock.

Researcher Lindsay Matthews acknowledges that the idea of ​​training cows to use the toilet to collect and process their urine came to her when he was interviewed on the radio in 2007 and a joke was made on the subject. “People’s reaction is + mad scientists + but in fact, the basic elements are there,” he assures us.

Together with colleagues in Germany, the scientists used food as a reward to train 16 calves to urinate in a latrine pen, ensuring the results are comparable to those expected of a three-year-old.

The study, published this week in the journal Current Biology, provides “proof of concept” for teaching a cow to urinate in the toilet, says Elliffe. The challenge is to scale up, he adds, to train large herds and adapt the principle to environments like New Zealand where animals spend more time outdoors than in barns.

Agriculture is responsible for about half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, mainly in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. Unusually for a developed country, methane accounts for 43.5% of the country’s emissions, almost as much as the amount of carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuels, which is explained by an economy based largely on l ‘Agriculture.

The South Pacific country has many research projects exploring possible solutions, such as raising livestock that emit low methane emissions, using animal feeds that reduce emissions, or even vaccinating animals so that they produce less gas. harmful gases.

Leave a Reply