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Surprising Science

Could A Better Type Of Grass Help Reduce Emissions?

Nitrous oxide makes up 38 percent of agriculture-based greenhouse gas emissions. Several new studies recommend wider development and production of a tropical “super grass” that binds nitrogen more effectively than other variations.

What’s the Latest Development?

At this week’s International Grasslands Congress in Sydney, teams of researchers will present papers that recommend more research and development of a special genus of grass, Brachiaria, that could potentially reduce the amount of nitrous oxide currently escaping into Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists are currently breeding different strains of these “super-grasses,” which contain chemicals that bind nitrogen to the soil more effectively, and promoting increased use in pastures and in rotation with food crops such as corn.

What’s the Big Idea?

Nitrous oxide makes up 38 percent of agriculture-based emissions and produces a stronger atmospheric warming effect than both carbon dioxide and methane. The spread of Brachiaria could help save “at least half of the gases…in livestock production,” says Michael Peters of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture. Additional benefits could include higher productivity, a reduced need for fertilizer and less nitrate pollution in local water sources. The fact that the grass is currently used for grazing in parts of Asia, Australia and Latin America highlights one big caveat: It grows best in warmer climates.

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Read it at The Guardian


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