USask researcher finds wheat byproduct in feed may cut methane emissions

On a mission to feed a hungry and growing world in a way that is environmentally sustainable, a University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate researcher is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the pork industry.

As the human population grows, so does the demand for food. Agbee Kpogo, a doctoral student in USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, investigated whether the western Canadian pork industry could be expanded while minimizing the environmental impact of pork production.  

“As the pork industry uses a lot of byproducts from crop production, the fear is that it could lead to an increase in methane emissions and greenhouse gases because of the fibre content in these products,” said Kpogo. “The pork industry is therefore faced with challenges such as increasing production while producing affordable meat without compromising the environment.” 

Under the supervision of assistant professor Dr. Denise Beaulieu (PhD), Kpogo and his research team analyzed how feeding pigs a diet based on wheat millrun affected methane emissions. Wheat millrun is a milling byproduct unsuitable for humans to consume, and thus using it in animal feed helps to prevent the environmental impacts of disposing of it in landfills. 

A series of experiments were performed at USask’s Prairie Swine Centre, where gas samples were collected from pigs over a two-week period. Results determined that the millrun diet did not increase greenhouse gas emissions from pigs, but actually reduced emissions by approximately 25 per cent. 

“The result that the inclusion of byproducts did not increase greenhouse gases was quite surprising because the assumption had always been that the high-fibre content in the byproducts increased fermentation, which led to an increase in greenhouse gas,” said Kpogo of the study findings. 

He said the next steps in the research are to consider other feed crops and potential byproduct additives that will provide nutrition for pigs while being environmentally sustainable. 

The research was published in the Journal of Animal Science and has been presented at multiple conferences. The research team was also able to provide data to the Holos lifecycle analysis model developed by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. Holos is a modelling and software program that estimates greenhouse gas emissions based on data collected from individual farms. 

“Sustainability in livestock production is dear to my heart as the impacts of climate change are being felt all over the world now,” said Kpogo. “What keeps pushing me forward is knowing that the answers I provide from my research will be able to contribute to a better world.” 

The research was funded by the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund and the Mitacs Accelerate program. 

This article first ran as part of the 2022 Young Innovators series, an initiative of the USask Research Profile and Impact office in partnership with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.