Students use synthetic biology to tackle cow burps


In Nebraska, students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have proposed two methods for dealing methane emissions related to livestock, a major contributor to global climate change.

The team’s proposal utilized two methods to reduce methane emissions. First, they developed a genetic pathway that would reduce nitrate in a cow’s rumen to nitrite, which could reduce methane burps. They also proposed inserting a gene found in algae and into E. coli, expanding on previous studies that showed bromoform in seaweed inhibits methane production when fed to cows.

EPA estimates that about a quarter of methane emissions—which are 25-times more damaging than carbon dioxide when it comes to climate change—can be attributed to livestock burps. Nebraska is the second-largest cattle-rearing state, behind Texas.