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New grass developed to curb greenhouse gas emissions

Tokyo, Nov 11 (): Researchers from Japan International Research Centre for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, known as CIAT, based in Cali, Colombia have developed a “super pasture grass” that suppresses greenhouse gas emissions and enhances cattle breeding.

The new species of grass has the emission curbing function. It releases substances from its roots that control activities of micro-organisms and sharply cuts the amount of nitrous oxide emitted. This grass was developed based on hybridisation between brachiaria and its relative species. Researchers say, the grass also gives more nutrition to cows compared to existing grass species and promotes their growth.

Researchers have already started to plant the grass in South America. The scientists expect that the new grass will help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector, estimated at more than 10 percent of such emissions.

The researchers discovered an inhibitor called brachialactone that can minimize greenhouse gas emissions from soil caused by use of chemical fertilizers. Brachialactone is released from the roots of a tropical grass. The inhibitor stops conversion of the fertilizer components into greenhouse gases, some of which are believed to cause soil and groundwater contamination, according to the study results.

Most of the extensively used nitrogen fertilisers could change into nitric acid in soil and some of this nitric acid turns into nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with 300 times more warming power than carbon dioxide. Some nitric acid leaks from farmland damages river, pollutes groundwater and ocean ecosystems.

Experiments conducted with the use of the new type of grass have shown that not only the nitrous oxide emission was suppressed, but production of milk and beef was also improved.

Senior researcher at the Japanese research centre, Guntur Subarao said the development of the new grass would be a significant technology to expand agricultural production in line with an increase in the global population while curbing the use of nitrogen fertilisers.

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