Grazing Cows can Reduce Global Warming

by Savitha C Muppala on  April 9, 2010 at 11:59 PM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
 Grazing Cows can Reduce Global Warming
Grazing cows or sheep can reduce the emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas, a new study has revealed.

But, a new study found that cattle grazed on the grasslands of China actually reduced another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

The researchers said that the study does not mean that producing livestock to eat is good for the environment in all countries.

However in certain circumstances, it can be better for global warming to let animals graze on grassland.

The study will again start the argument over whether to eat red meat after other studies suggested that grass fed cattle in the UK and US can also be good for the environment as long as the animals are free range.

Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, carried out the study in Inner Mongolia in China.

He found that grassland produced more nitrous oxide during the spring thaw when sheep or cattle have not been grazing, because microbes in the soil release the greenhouse gas, also known as laughing gas.

When the grass is long snow settles keeping the microbes warm and providing water. But when the grass is cut short by animals the ground freezes and the microbes die.

Butterbach-Bahl said that the study overturned assumptions about grazing goats and cattle.

"It's been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case," the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane.

But Butterbach-Bahl pointed out that the study did not take into account the methane produced by the livestock or the carbon dioxide produced if soil erodes.

He also pointed out that much of the red meat eaten in the western world comes from intensively farmed animals in southern countries.

He said the study does not overturn the case for cutting down on red meat but shows grazing livestock is not always bad for global warming.

The study has been published in Nature.

Source: ANI

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