Washington, May 9 : Scientists are developing grass that may help tackle global warming by cutting the level of methane given off by cows while burping.
According to a report in Science Daily, the grass is being developed by Scientists at Gramina, a joint biotech venture by Australia's Molecular Plant Breeding Cooperative Research Centre and New Zealand rural services group PGG Wrightson Genomics.
The grass will not only cut the amount of methane cows burp up when chewing the cud, but also grow in hotter climes.
This means that farmers should be able to maintain dairy herds' productivity and profitability in the face of a changing climate, while cutting down their gaseous burps and reducing their contribution to global warming.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculates that methane makes up 14.3% of humanity's contribution to global warming and data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US shows that atmospheric methane levels may be rising again after a 10 year period of stability.
A single dairy cow can produce between 550-700L of methane a day and it has been estimated that methane from cattle in the UK could account for as much as 3% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Cows' production of methane is due to the microflora in their gut that helps them to digest their food.
As these microbes break down the grass' cellulose, methane is produced as a by-product, the majority of which is burped up.
According to David Beever, international nutrition director of Richard Keenan UK, "You don't actually hear the cows burp, but they are permanently releasing methane."
Gramina will use sense suppression technology to prevent the expression of the enzyme O-methyl transferase.
Suppressing this enzyme leads to an increase in the digestibility of the grass without compromising its structural properties and therefore less burps and less methane.
Gramina has already tested this modification in temperate grasses in the lab and glasshouses and is now planning field trials.