Horse Poop May Hold Enzyme Secret for Biofuel Production
By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
A new value for horse manure may have just been discovered! Chemists say that horse manure may be the secret for producing ethanol from feedstocks like corn stover, straw, switchgrass, and wood chips. Scientists are finding that enzymes in horse manure could hold the potential for converting cellulose into sugars.
The fungi that grows on manure plays a role in breaking down plant material, which is a process that is expensive for the biofuel industry. Extracting biofuel from plants is an expensive process because sugars needed to make alcohol are in cellulose, which are found in plant cell walls. Plant material would need to be treated in order to break down the cellulose.
The scientific breakthrough was presented at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans by Michelle A. O’Malley of the University of California. O’Malley explained that while scientists have been studying the bacteria in the digestive tracts of cows and horses, until now fungi hadn’t been researched. Research is currently being conducted on how to get bacteria used in biofuel production to make enzymes on a larger scale.
Horses and cows naturally break down plant material, because of the enzymes found in their digestive tracts. In the future, it’s possible that these enzymes could be harnessed for the biofuel industry, which may lead to a cheaper source of biofuel.