Horse manure is making headlines in the scientific community! It has been discovered that horse manure holds the secrets to cheaper biofuels.
Horse feces and the intestinal tract of horses contain fungi with special enzymes that will reduce the cost of biofuels from non-food plant material. This was reported last month at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
Biofuels need cellulose, which is locked within plant walls. The process of breaking down these walls and fermenting the sugars is expensive. These fungi enzymes will make the process cheaper and more efficient.
Michelle A. O'Mally, PhD explained it like this, "Nature has made it very difficult and expensive to access the cellulose in plants. Additionally, we need to find the best enzyme mixture to convert that cellulose into sugar," O'Malley said. "We have discovered a fungus from the digestive tract of a horse that addresses both issues -- it thrives on lignin-rich plants and converts these materials into sugars for the animal. It is a potential treasure trove of enzymes for solving this problem and reducing the cost of biofuels."
In the past, there has been much research on the bacteria in the intestines of large herbivores but not the fungi. Because of the low numbers of fungi in the digestion process, it was assumed that the fungi were unimportant. Now they know better, but it is still a challenge to find the concentrations of fungi they need for further research.
As a horse owner myself, I am somewhat excited about this news. My horses produce a lot of manure. Maybe someday scientists and biofuel producers will come a knockin' and offer to take my manure pile for free...or better yet, PAY me for it. Okay, so perhaps I'm being unrealistic. However, this is great news for our future. And the offer is open...if anyone wants my horses' feces, they are welcome to it.