Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Reducing rumen methane emissions through elimination of rumen protozoa

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50(8) 1321 - 1328
Published: 1999


Methanogens living on and within rumen ciliate protozoa may be responsible for up to 37% of the rumen methane emissions. In the absence of protozoa, rumen methane emissions are reduced by an average of 13% but this varies with diet. Decreased methane emissions from the protozoa-free rumen may be a consequence of: (1) reduced ruminal dry matter digestion; (2) a decreased methanogen population; (3) an altered pattern of volatile fatty acid production and hydrogen availability; or (4) increased partial pressure of oxygen in the rumen. The decline in methanogenesis associated with removal of protozoa is greatest on high concentrate diets and this is in keeping with protozoa being relatively more important sources of hydrogen on starch diets, because many starch-fermenting bacteria do not produce H2. Because protozoa also decrease the supply of protein available to the host animal, their elimination offers benefits in both decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and potentially increasing livestock production. Strategies for eliminating protozoa are reviewed. None of the available techniques is considered practical for commercial application and this should be addressed.

Keywords: Ciliates, methanogens, symbiosis, ruminal, defaunation, hydrogen.

© CSIRO 1999

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