Newcastle University researchers have found that coriander and turmeric – spices used to flavour curries – can reduce the amount of methane produced by bacteria in a sheep’s stomach by up to 40pc.
Working a bit like an antibiotic, the spices were found to kill the methane-producing ‘bad’ bacteria in the animal’s gut while allowing the ‘good’ bacteria to flourish.
The findings are part of an on-going study by Newcastle University research student Mohammad Mehedi Hasan and Dr Abdul Shakoor Chaudhry – the most recent part of which is published this week in the Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 2010.
Mehedi explained: “Spices have long been used safely by humans to kill bacteria and treat a variety of ailments – coriander seeds, for example, are often prescribed for stomach complaints while turmeric and cloves are strong antiseptics.
“Methane is a major contributor to global warming and the slow digestive system of ruminant animals such as cows and sheep makes them a key producer of the gas.
“What my research found was that certain spices contain properties which make this digestive process more efficient so producing less waste – in this case, methane.”
It sounds good in theory but there’s a long way between what works in a lab and what can be applied in the field – literally in this case.
Can coriander and turmeric be grown by the thousands of hectares in the soils and climates in which grass grows well?
If it does, will sheep eat it?
Will they get the nutrients they need from it?
What will eating spices do to the flavour of their meat and milk?
That said, reducing methane emissions in animals relies on science. Reductions of up to 40 per cent in the lab make persevering with the study to see if if can be applied in the fields and paddocks worthwhile.
Hat Tip: Interest.co.nz