Researchers give methane a curry up

July 25, 2010

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


Effects of naming cows on milk production study wins Ig Noble

October 3, 2009

A study which found that named cows produce more milk than their nameless sisters won the Veterinary Medicine prize in this year’s Ig Noble Awards.

The research was carried out by Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University.

Ig Nobles are awarded for achievements which first make people laugh then make people think.

The Public Health Prize went to Elena N. Bodnar, Raphael C. Lee, and Sandra Marijan of Chicago for inventing a bra that, in an emergency, can be quickly converted into a pair of gas masks, one for the bra wearer and one to be given to  bystander.

Other award winners were:

PEACE PRIZE:   Stephan Bolliger, Steffen Ross, Lars Oesterhelweg, Michael Thali and Beat Kneubuehl from the University of Bern, Switzerland, for determining — by experiment — whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

ECONOMICS PRIZE: The directors, executives, and auditors of four Icelandic banksbanks — Kaupthing Bank, Landsbanki, Glitnir Bank, and Central Bank of Iceland — for demonstrating that tiny banks can be rapidly transformed into huge banks, and vice versa — and for demonstrating that similar things can be done to an entire national economy.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Javier Morales, Miguel Apátiga, and Victor M. Castaño  from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, for creating diamonds from liquid — specifically from tequila.

MEDICINE PRIZE: Donald L. Unger, of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, for investigating a possible cause of arthritis of the fingers, by diligently cracking the knuckles of his left hand — but never cracking the knuckles of his right hand — every day for more than 60 years.

PHYSICS PRIZE: Katherine K. Whitcome of the University of Cincinnati, USA, Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard University, USA, and Liza J. Shapiro of the University of Texas, USA, for analytically determining why pregnant women don’t tip over.

LITERATURE PRIZE: Ireland’s police service (An Garda Siochana), for writing and presenting more than fifty traffic tickets to the most frequent driving offender in the country — Prawo Jazdy — whose name in Polish means “Driving License”.

MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Gideon Gono, governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank, for giving people a simple, everyday way to cope with a wide range of numbers — from very small to very big — by having his bank print bank notes with denominations ranging from one cent ($.01) to one hundred trillion dollars ($100,000,000,000,000).

BIOLOGY PRIZE: Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas.


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