• NZAGRC welcomes PCE report on agricultural GHG mitigation

    Wednesday, 19 October 2016
    The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report into greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture highlights the need for a suite of mitigation solutions rather than a single silver bullet.
    The PCE report is available at
    Read more 

  • NZAGRC welcomes stocktake of New Zealand's action on climate change

    Friday, 23 September 2016

    The NZAGRC supports the New Zealand government’s commitment to progress action on climate change, summarised yesterday in the Ministry for the Environment’s stocktake document: “New Zealand’s Action on Climate Change”.

    Andy Reisinger, NZAGRC Deputy Director, says “it is excellent to see an overview of the climate change challenges and actions specific to New Zealand. This document shows the many ways in which New Zealand is currently addressing the challenges posed by climate change and it’s good to see recognition that we can do more and will do more to make the most of our unique opportunity.”

    The agricultural industry in New Zealand can play a unique role in New Zealand’s action on climate change. Almost half New Zealand’s emissions come from agriculture, but so does much of our national income. As highlighted in the document, there is significant effort already going on to reduce emissions whilst maintaining industry growth and prosperity.

    In particular, the NZAGRC, in close partnership with the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium is working with the farming sector on finding ways to reduce biological emissions from agriculture. Andy Reisinger says “The NZAGRC plays a significant and active role in researching greenhouse gas reduction solutions that will work for our farming sector. We’re also driving international efforts through our research collaborations via the Global Research Alliance’s Livestock Research Group.“

    “The NZAGRC looks forward to supporting the strengthened climate change actions highlighted in this document, including through the establishment of a new expert group to support New Zealand’s efforts to address climate change in agriculture.”



    Andy Reisinger, NZAGRC Deputy Director

    Tel: 04 472 3292 Mob: 021 613 125 Email:

    About the NZAGRC

    The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse gas Research Centre is a partnership between the leading New Zealand research providers working in the agricultural greenhouse gas area and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) working on development of efficient, cost effective farm solutions through the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture should be reduced by 1 gigatonne in 2030, but less than half of this is possible with current options - international study

    A global team of scientists, including one from New Zealand, has estimated that emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases from agriculture should be reduced by about 1 gigatonne (1 billion tonnes) annually by 2030 to help achieve the goals set at last year’s global climate change conference in Paris. The Paris conference confirmed a long-term goal of limiting warming from climate change to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

    The authors of the study argue that focusing emissions reductions only on sectors such as energy and transport (where emissions will need to be reduced close to zero well before the end of the century) would be insufficient to meet the temperature goal set by the new climate agreement. They say that agriculture must also play its part, proposing that the global institutions concerned with agriculture and food security set a sectoral emissions target for agriculture linked to the 2°C warming limit. Yet their detailed analysis revealed a major gap between the existing mitigation options for the agriculture sector and the reductions needed: currently and readily available interventions would only deliver between 21-40% of the mitigation required. 

    Dr Andy Reisinger, co-author of this study and Deputy Director of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), says the study serves as both a benchmark and wakeup call. “More than one hundred countries have indicated in their national climate change targets that they would like to reduce emissions from agriculture, but few have a clear plan for how to achieve this or how much they can achieve. We know that increasing the adoption of best practices for efficient and productive farm systems is a key element, but these alone are not enough. It will take much more coordinated efforts between national and global institutions concerned with agriculture and food security to make the progress that is needed.”

    Dr Reisinger says that the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), a voluntary international initiative instigated by New Zealand, is making important contributions to this goal. “For many developing countries, food security, not greenhouse gas mitigation, is an overriding concern. Our work in the GRA is focussed on demonstrating that there are important synergies between increasing the productivity and efficiency of their farm systems and reducing the emissions per unit of food they produce. The more we can engage those countries in a conversation that encompasses both those elements, the better we can ensure that there is enough food to feed the planet without putting the planet itself at serious risk.” 

    With support from the New Zealand Government, the NZAGRC is working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation in a United Nations sponsored project to identify regionally tailored ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from key livestock systems through increasing productivity and efficiency. Current focus areas are the southern cone of South America, East and West Africa, and South Asia. An extension of this approach is planned to South-East Asia. 

    But even with increased efficiency gains, Dr Reisinger says, new and additional solutions to reduce emissions without compromising food security will be needed. The government-funded NZAGRC is working in partnership with the industry-government joint venture, the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, to develop additional ways for farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. This includes the identification of naturally lower emitting animals for targeted breeding, development of animal-safe compounds that can suppress the generation of methane in the rumen of animals, and searching for ways to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide and to increase the amount of carbon stored in pastoral soils.

    Dr Harry Clark, Director of the NZAGRC and Co-Chair of the Livestock Research Group of the GRA, says that this study supports the approach that New Zealand has adopted for reducing agricultural GHG emissions. Improvements in production efficiency are a crucial component of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions but they are not enough on their own, given the increasing global population and associated demand for food. Hence the NZAGRC and the PGgRc have focussed on the development of new technologies that can make a large contribution to reducing overall emissions from agriculture. “New Zealand, in a partnership between government, science and industry is at the forefront of developing such new technologies. If successfully developed and implemented, these technologies will have global as well as local impact and would make the type of contribution the authors point out is needed for the world to achieve the target it set in Paris”.

    The full paper will be available at

    For more information please contact:

    Andy Reisinger 
    021 613 125

    Harry Clark 
    029 351 8111


  • Media Release: 27 April 2015

    New Zealand scientists have identified animal-safe compounds that can reduce methane emissions from sheep & cattle by up to 90 per cent. The announcement was made today by Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) Chairman and New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) Steering Group member Rick Pridmore.

     pdf Read more (0.28MB) 

  • Major methanogen milestone

    AgResearch scientists and US researchers are one step closer in their work to reduce methane emissions from sheep.

    They have identified microbial differences in the rumens of sheep with high or low methane emissions.

    The work is part of a Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research project and has been carried out by the Rumen Microbiology team at AgResearch Grasslands in Palmerston North, and at the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in San Francisco, California.

    Methane belched from sheep and other ruminants accounts for around 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities. It is produced in the rumen by microbes called methanogens and the work targeting these organisms is aimed at reducing methane emissions from ruminants.

    AgResearch scientist and project leader, Dr Graeme Attwood says the results, which have just been published in the top-ranking journal Genome Research, are one of the first major findings of the four-year project.

    "The study used the large sequencing and data analysis capabilities of the JGI to look at the occurrence, abundance and expression of methanogen genes between low and high methane-emitting sheep identified from flocks in New Zealand," he says.

    "These analyses showed that, although the relative abundance of genes did not differ between the low and high methane groups, the expression of genes involved in the metabolic pathway leading to methane formation were significantly elevated in methanogens within the rumens of high methane-emitting animals."
    He says this discovery helps explain the methanogen involvement in this animal trait, and it is likely that further detailed analysis of the large sequence datasets will uncover differences in other rumen microbes which also contribute.

    The study is funded through the New Zealand government in support of the objectives of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases and its Livestock Research Group, and builds on previous work by a combined NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and NZ Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium programme in which a large number of sheep have been screened to identify naturally low or high methane-emitting animals.

    This programme aims to breed sheep for New Zealand farms which are low methane-emitters but also maintain their ability to reproduce and retain or improve their meat and wool production.

    The microbial gene expression differences discovered in the study help define the methane trait in sheep and will assist in the selection of future low methane flocks.

    "Understanding the microbial composition of a low methane animal and how its rumen works, will enable us to focus on targeting the methanogens directly using complementary approaches such as drenches, slow release boluses or specialised forages and supplements," says Dr Attwood.

    The paper "Methane yield phenotypes linked to differential gene expression in the sheep rumen microbiome" has been published this week in the journal Genome Research

    About AgResearch: AgResearch is New Zealand's largest Crown Research Institute and focuses on supporting the country's pastoral sector through scientific research and innovation.


  • Our problem, not our grandchildren's

    Excerpt from the online article by Nina Fowler, The Wireless 21/08/14

    Agriculture has long been a sticking point for efforts to reduce emissions in New Zealand.

    In 2003, the government tried to levy farmers to pay for emissions research. Dubbed the “fart tax” (burps are actually more of a problem), it was met by protests organised by Federated Farmers. In what became an enduring image of the protest, National MP Shane Ardern – who also farms in Taranaki – drove a tractor up the steps of Parliament.

    Today, a good part of the country’s leading work on agriculture emissions reduction takes place at the government-funded New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC). The centre collaborates on certain work with the industry-funded Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (set up after the failure of the fart tax **).

    The NZAGRC’s main focus has been on methane – produced by sheep and cattle during digestion – though research is also taking place into nitrous oxide and soil carbon. It’s looking at breeding low-emitting animals and developing a vaccine and feed compounds.

    “The animal breeding is probably the most advanced,” NZAGRC director Harry Clark says. “We’ve got further evidence now that some animals do produce less methane.”

    The way it works is simple enough. Sheep and cattle with smaller stomachs process pasture faster, leaving less time for fermentation. “We could have breeding values in the sheep population for selection for methane within the next three years,” Dr Clark says.

    “What we’re doing at the moment is dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s to make sure there are no downsides.”

    Dr Clark – also a lead author for the IPCC on a chapter dealing with land sector emission reduction – says New Zealand has come a long way since the fart tax protests.

    “As the climate changes, it influences the amount of food that can be produced. Yes, it is desirable to reduce one of the drivers of climate change, which is greenhouse gas emissions, but you can’t do that at the expense of not producing food,” he says. “I think we’re a lot more sophisticated than we were 10 years ago about thinking about that balance.”

    He acknowledges that it will be difficult to reduce overall emissions without tackling the agricultural sector but argues that there is some room for optimism. “What we can do is move on a trajectory towards lower emissions intensity in the sector. The sector’s already doing some of that through improvements in productivity.”

    Asked about engineering a shift to high-value products, he points out it will be difficult while commodity prices remain high. “When you get milk powder, the price is gold, what’s the point of adding value? You might as well sell milk powder.”

    Read full article online at

    Read more about the NZAGRC-PGgRc methane science programme HERE

    ** PGgRc was set up in 2002 to fund research into mitigation of methane emissions from livestock. In 2004, an MOU was signed between the Crown and industry after consultation/opposition to the agricultural emissions levy (the "fart" tax).

  • Tiny organism a big challenge to methane researchers

    Much effort and intellectual grunt is going into solving the livestock methane emissions problem. Peter Burke reports on this science challenge facing New Zealand.

    A TINY micro-organism one thousandth of a millimetre long is proving a huge challenge for scientists in New Zealand and overseas.

    It's called a methanogen and it produces methane in the rumen of farm animals which they emit when they belch. That methane in the atmosphere contributes to the global warming now causing massive problems.

    The agricultural sector accounts for 46% of New Zealand's emissions, a serious challenge given our large ruminant population.

    New Zealand scientists hope within five years to develop on-farm technologies to help reduce methane gas emissions from cattle, sheep and deer.

    The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) are working to solve this problem. Their target is to lower emissions 5% below 1990 levels by 2020 and cut them by 50% by 2050.

    One scientist working on methanogens is Dr Peter Janssen at AgResearch, Palmerston North.

    Janssen says the rumen of animals is where feed is held and fermented by a complex community of different micro-organisms including methanogens. These live on the hydrogen gas that is a by-product of the rumination process; the methane they produce is no use to the animal so is expelled during belching.

    "These methane producing micro-organisms are evolutionarily distinct from the other parts of this complex system including the ruminant animal. They are biologically different - promising if you are trying to develop a strategy to eliminate those without harming any other part."

    Trouble is it's difficult to develop a vaccine or any sort of inhibitor, Janssen says.

    The science challenge is underpinned by continuous investment by the PGgRc and NZAGRC, funded by the government and the primary sector.

    Janssen says it takes a long time to build up knowledge and expertise in this area - a clear understanding of methanogens, in part by growing them in a laboratory.

    Various scientific strategies are being worked on and trialled. These including breeding animals that produce less methane and studying different feed types for their effects on the amount of methane an animal produces.
    Our scientists have bred animals that produce less methane. Various brassicas are found to reduce methane emissions, to a limited degree. Scientists are working on a vaccine and an ‘inhibitor' but a solution is still five years away.
    Janssen says New Zealand researchers' contribution is significant and the quality of their work world class.

    "Similar research is being done in Australia, Canada, to some extent in the US and some EU countries [but there is no] comprehensive programme. We have a programme of hedging our bets with low impact, low risk and high impact, high risk strategies.

    "No one else has programmes applicable to our agricultural systems so we have to look after our own and make sure we develop things that work in our farming systems."

    There is no guarantee a solution developed overseas would work in New Zealand given the unique nature of our farming systems.

    Side Bar :pdf Breathe in, now breathe now (0.10MB)

  • Scientists work on methane solution

    New Zealand scientists hope to have technologies that can be implemented on farm to help reduce methane gas emissions from farm animals such as cows, cattle, sheep and deer within about five years.

    That's the view of Mark Aspin, manager of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) which along with the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is working to find a solution to the problem.

    Much of the science work the two organisations do is based at Palmerston North and the pair are working on a joint science programme to contribute to the achievement of two government targets is respect of greenhouse gas emissions - lowering our emissions by five percent below the 1990 levels by 2020 and cutting them by 50 percent by 2050. Aspin says the agricultural industry accounts for 46% of New Zealand's total emissions and with our large ruminant population this is a serious challenge. He says farmers have been doing their bit to reduce methane emissions by becoming more productive, but he says the increase in livestock numbers - especially cow numbers - the efficiency gains are not keeping pace with the quantum increase product output.

    "Efficiency gains made by farmers have decreased greenhouse gas intensity by one percent annually. This is through a combination of better genetics and feed but given that livestock production is increasing by two percent annually, this is not enough. So with the financial support of government and the farming industry through the likes of DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb we are looking to find some technologies that can give us an extra one-and-ahalf percent increase in intensity efficiency," he says.

    The funding for the science comes from two sources - MPI funds the work the work being done by the Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and this involves most of CRI's plus Massey University and DairyNZ. The (PGgRc) gets 50% money from MBIE and the other 50% comes from industry organisations including again DairyNZ, Fonterra, Landcorp and Beef+ Lamb.

    Some of the research efforts are directed at finding ways to inhibit a tiny microbes using vaccines and chemical inhibitors found in the rumen of cattle, sheep and deer known as methanogens which produce methane in the gut of the animal and which is then expelled into the atmosphere when the animals belch. The solutions being investigated include finding genetic traits in animals that produce less methane and seeing if different types of forages can also make a difference.

    "Firstly we are reliant on the scientists to understand the systems and where methane comes from and what drives it. Also whether there are specific forages that may end up using less methane than ryegrass and while clover which is the mainstay of our pasture. We have found that brassica crops do give us some benefit in that respect, but that is just for very limited time of the year. But with this and our genetic programme we know the gains will be small and therefore will have to look at some of the more scientifically challenging and higher impact options such as a methane vaccine and methane inhibitors," he says.

    Aspin says even when a solution is found in the case of the methane vaccine and/or inhibitors, it will take time for clinical trials to be conducted and the product to be fully commercialised. He says while excellent progresses is being made by the science teams a solution for farmers could still be five years away.

    He says right now there is not a lot more that farmers can do but to keep driving on farm efficiency and to continue to support their respective industry good organisations funding of the science programmes.

    Peter Burke
    Dairy News
    12 August 2014

    Read the article at

  • Livestock gut microbes contributing to greenhouse gas emissions

    "Increased to levels unprecedented" is how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) described the rise of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions in their report on the physical science basis of climate change in 2013. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the atmospheric concentration of methane, a greenhouse gas some 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide has been steadily growing since the 18th century and has now increased by 50 percent compared to pre-industrial levels, exceeding 1,800 parts per billion.

    Read full article at

    Read news release at


    This work was funded by the NZAGRC-PGgRc science programme and the NZ Fund for Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research (to support the objectives of the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases).

  • Keeping it Pure

    Keeping it Pure is a series about the New Zealand environment. The series canvasses the opinion of leading scientists, environmentalists, farmers and business leaders.  NZAGRC Director, Harry Clark MNZM PhD and NZAGRC Principal Investigator, Dr Peter Janssen provided short segments detailing methane reduction and featured in episode 2. The six episode series was produced in 2013 by Greenstone TV and aired in early 2014 on Prime TV.

    See the full docmentary overview and trailor at

  • Agricultural GHG Research Receives Boost through PGgRc

    The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) has secured funding from the agriculture sector and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to continue research to find tools for mitigating greenhouse gases.

    For the Minister's 4 February release click HERE

  • The New Zealand Farming Story: Tackling Agricultural Emissions

    Watch this film

    This film is the product of years of research into how New Zealand can reduce our agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to reduce climate change. It covers the basic science along with current and potential future technological solutions. With a range of views from farmers to scientists to economists, the film also looks at the challenge of mitigating agricultural GHGs. It covers how we can develop policy and actions to not only deal with NZ's emissions, but lead the world in showing other countries it can be done.

    The film features Harry Clark and Andy Reisinger from the NZAGRC.

    It was produced by Motu (


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