News / Americas

Special Grass for Livestock Could Cut Greenhouse Gases

Recent studies at an international agricultural research institute in Colombia have shown that a grass used to feed livestock, known as Brachiaria, could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and agriculture and reduce the use of commercial
Recent studies at an international agricultural research institute in Colombia have shown that a grass used to feed livestock, known as Brachiaria, could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and agriculture and reduce the use of commercial

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Zulima Palacio

Recent studies at an international agricultural research institute in Colombia have shown that a grass used to feed livestock, known as Brachiaria, could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and agriculture and reduce the use of commercial fertilizers. In the United States, for example, agriculture and livestock account for six percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Cattle and agriculture are blamed as major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. But chances are, these animals are much less guilty.

They have been fed a grass known as Brachiaria as well as experimental hybrids that could dramatically cut agriculture's contribution to global warming.

Raimundo Cruz works in the cattle industry.  He recommends Brachiaria grasses for livestock.

"These cattle get fat very easy and offer better gains because this grass has more protein and is easier to digest," said Cruz.

Cows fed on Brachiaria excrete much less methane, a greenhouse gas.  And Cruz says by rotating pineapple and brachiaria grasses every 6 to 8 years, he has tripled the number of cows per hectare and eliminated the use of commercial fertilizers.

"This soil is usually very poor, it could only grow low grass," added Cruz.  "But by rotating pineapple and Brachiaria grasses, we have increased its fertility so much that it allows us to have these grasses only seen in fertile lands."

Brachiaria is a grass for grazing widely planted in the tropics.  Recently, scientists in Colombia, with Japanese partners, discovered that besides being easy to digest and highly nutritious for cattle, brachiaria improves soil quality, and significantly reduces greenhouse gasses emitted by cattle and commercial fertilizers.

"This is the florescence and each one of these is a seed," noted Idupulapati Rao who is studying Brachiaria at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, the third largest city in Colombia.  "These grasses with great root systems exude a particular chemical compound, organic compound, that is called brachialactone…"

And that chemical, he explains, triggers a process that inhibits the transformation of nitrogen in the soil into a powerful greenhouse gas.  Most commercial fertilizers used in agriculture worldwide use nitrogen as the main nutrient.    

"Right now nitrogen fertilizer is like 115 million tons per year around the world," added Rao.

Nitrogen fertilizers emit nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2, the most common greenhouse gas emitted by cars and industry.

Rao says CIAT is researching the genetic map of brachiaria.

"If we know what genes are involved in the production of this chemical and the release of this chemical into the soil, then we can put these genes into major field crops like maize, wheat and rice," explained Rao.

At CIAT, scientists believe Brachiaria and its genes could have other benefits. Here, the white bags contain seeds of different varieties of Brachiaria.  Scientists are studying their attributes including resistance to drought, floods and major pests as well as ability to tolerate acid soil.

In other fields, like this one, a hybrid Brachiaria is planted between rows of legumes.  

Luis Horacio Franco is an agronomist at CIAT.   

"The soil is like a bank," noted Luis Horacio Franco.  "If you just withdraw and withdraw all the nutrients, the soil goes bankrupt."

While scientists continue to study Brachiaria's genome, they hope to spread the use of Brachiaria grasses to tropical regions in Africa and Asia.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Christians Celebrate Easter

Worshippers gathered in Bethlehem for traditional Easter vigil at the Church of Saint Catherine, one of the most visited Christian shrines
More

Audit Finds US Housing Aid Program in Haiti Falls Short

Results show post-earthquake USAID program has delivered only a quarter of planned number of homes at nearly twice the budgeted cost
More

Mourning, Memories in Garcia Marquez's Languid Hometown

Nobel Prize-winning author's early years in Aracataca inspired characters, tales for major novel
More

Powerful Earthquake Rattles Mexico

US Geological Survey says quake measuring 7.5 on Richter scale, was centered in the western state of Guerrero, north of Acapulco beach resort
More

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support
More

Colombian Novelist Garcia Marquez Dies at 87

Author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982
More