Cow stomach microbes could hold key for increased food and biofuel production

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In the United Kingdom, researchers from The University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College found that the types of microbes and enzymes in cow stomachs that help them digest plant-based diets into energy could prove useful for developing new biofuels as well as help meat and dairy production.

Researchers focused on microbes found in a cow’s rumen – the first of its four stomachs. The team used an advanced technique called metagenomics, which involves analyzing the genetic composition all of the microbes that exist within an organism, in this case a cow. They studied samples of rumen gut contents from 43 cows and identified 913 diverse strains of microbes living in the rumen.

Most of the microbes uncovered have never been seen before and may have potential uses in the biofuels and biotechnology industries. By analysing their genetic information, the team pinpointed previously unknown enzymes that can extract energy and nutrition from plant material. This could help produce more food for people with less resources and improve global food security, according to the press release.