Can freshwater plants and algae act as an effective feed supplement to reduce methane emissions from ruminant livestock?

Rebecca E. Lester, Ashley Macqueen, Emily K. Armstrong, David T. Dodemaide, Georgia K. Dwyer, Thomas S. Mock, Stephanie Payne, Michael Smith, Michaela Storen, Lawrence Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methane production by livestock is a substantial component of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. The marine red algae, Asparagopsis taxiformis, has been identified as a possible supplement in livestock feeds due to its potent inhibition of methane production but currently is unable to be produced at scale. Finding additional taxa that inhibit methane production is therefore desirable. Here we provide foundational evidence of methanogenesis-inhibiting properties in Australian freshwater plants and algae, reviewing candidate species and testing species' chemical composition and efficacy in vitro. Candidate plant species and naturally-occurring algal mixes were collected and assessed for ability to reduce methane in batch testing and characterised for biochemical composition, lipids and fatty acids, minerals and DNA. We identified three algal mixes and one plant (Montia australasica) with potential to reduce methane yield in in vitro batch assay trials. All three algal mixes contained Spirogyra, although additional testing would be needed to confirm this alga was responsible for the observed activity. For the two samples that underwent multiple dose testing, Algal mix 1 (predominantly Spirogyra maxima) and M. australasica, there seems to be an optimum dose but sources, harvesting and storage conditions potentially determine their methanogenesis-inhibiting activity. Based on their compositions, fatty acids are likely to be acting to reduce methane in Algal mix 1 while M. australasica likely contains substantial amounts of the flavonoids apigenin and kaempferol, which are associated with methane reduction. Based on their mineral composition, the samples tested would be safe for livestock consumption at an inclusion rate of 20%. Thus, we identified multiple Australian species that have potential to be used as a feed supplement to reduce methane yield in livestock which may be suitable for individual farmers to grow and feed, reducing complexities of supply associated with marine alternatives and suggesting avenues for investigation for similar species elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169296
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date13 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


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