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Dr. Brent Selinger

University of LethbridgeDr. Brent Selinger is one of Alberta's current innovators. Holding multiple patents, he is based out of Lethbridge.

A desire to protect Alberta’s waterways from phosphorous pollution is the impetus for Dr. Brent Selinger’s latest research. Selinger, a professor of biology at the University of Lethbridge and one of the scientists involved in the Water Institute for Semi-Arid Ecosystems (WISE) is a life-long innovator, holding nine patents.

Currently, Selinger is looking at a micro-biological approach to prevent phosphorous run-off from livestock operations from polluting Alberta’s lakes and rivers.

Dr. Brent SelingerChickens and pigs are mono-gastric animals, their digestive tracts much simpler than ruminants, such as cattle, deer, bison, etc., and their systems lack phytases, the enzymes necessary to digest the most prevalent form of phosphorous found in grain. Since their feed consists primarily of grain and they have no way of breaking down the phosphorous it contains, a significant amount of phosphorous is returned to the environment through manure. When it rains, the phosphorous often runs off into the nearest body of water, thus upsetting that area’s phosphorous balance.

Maybe livestock operators should spread less manure? Selinger agrees that would solve the phosphorous problem, but in turn create another. It is simply not economically viable for intensive livestock operators to transport their manure for long distances. Selinger offers an alternative. By studying the organisms that allow the digestion of phosphorous in ruminant animals, he intends to isolate the chemical components necessary to allow the mono-gastric animals to access the phosphorous. In doing so, Selinger will be able to add these components to their feed, allowing them to break down the phosphorous before it has a chance to reach the environment.

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