Mootral is a garlic-based feed additive that reduces the methane produced by cows, sheep and other ruminants.

The extract is a natural antibiotic that limits the growth of bacteria in the ruminant’s stomach. The key ingredient is allicin, a compound derived from garlic, which reduced methane production by 94 per cent in a laboratory trial simulating ruminants’ digestive processes. Animal trials are now underway to work out the optimum dosage and frequency.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Neem estimates the digestive processes of the world’s herds and flocks are responsible for 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Neem Biotech is already producing the allicin on a commercial scale. They point out that the feed additives can get to work straight away. “Many carbon-offsetting initiatives are frustratingly long-term, but Mootral can reduce methane emissions with immediate effect,” says director Professor Jeremy Stone.

The product also has potential for implementation on a global scale. Estonia is already implementing an emissions tax for farmers ‘per ruminant capita’, with Denmark and Ireland still chewing the idea over. “Meat production is huge in terms of business interests and livelihoods. This is a way to cut down on emissions without taxing beef.”

Professor Stone suggests the airline industry could assist in the roll-out of the project. “Airlines have a vast carbon footprint to mitigate,” he says. By encouraging their passengers to purchase carbon-offsetting credits, they could finance the distribution of the additive to farms beneath their flight path, and gain ‘Mootral’ status.

The author is Anna Simpson, publishing co-ordinator at Green Futures

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