Methane Research Programme

The NZAGRC methane programme is jointly planned and funded in partnership with the PGgRc and aligns with existing MPI programmes funded through SLMACC and New Zealand funding in support of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases. It aims to reduce emissions by directly targeting the methane producing methanogens through the discovery of small molecule inhibitors and vaccines and indirectly through feeding and changes in animal phenotype. 


  • Breeding: Research to understand the genetics of host control of ruminant methane emissions, which aims to develop genetic and genomic selection technologies to reduce methane yield and intensity in sheep. The current stage of the programme involves the development and dissemination of practical tools for selection for lowered emissions. A major part of maximising impact and uptake is to explore relative economic value from increased production and potential increased feed utilisation associated with lowered methane
  • Vaccine (jointly supported by PGgRc): A prototype vaccine (which after further development is aimed at producing a vaccine targeted at reducing methane emissions in cattle and sheep by 20%) is being formulated with the help of a commercial partner
  • Inhibitors (previously jointly funded but now fully funded by PGgRc): Research to develop cost-effective inhibitors that reduce methane emissions by at least 20% in sheep and cattle—without reducing productivity—is now being developed, with a view to bring the technology to market
  • Modelling: A tool to help scientists in the NZAGRC/PGgRc programme to develop hypotheses and predict responses in methane formation is in its final stages
Current progress and research stories

The current objectives within the NZAGRC methane programme have made significant progress this year, with the sheep breeding programme getting closer to delivering breeding values to the national flock.

1405 Tim McAllister, Principal Scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Tim presented an international perspective on the methane research being conducted globally.

There is research being conducted to investigate both:

(i) technologies to reduce emissions and
ii) ways to increase efficiency across the globe.

It appears that New Zealand has one of the most focused and coordinated programmes.

Tim then focused on a couple of the more promising strategies including the methane inhibitor, 3-NOP, being developed by DSM Nutritional Products in Switzerland. This feed additive has shown a 60% reduction in methane when mixed with feed, but has to be fed continuously to achieve this reduction. The company are currently looking for any associated productivity changes that may be attractive to farmers.

Nitrate is also being investigated as a feed additive. This has the potential to be toxic if fed in high quantities, therefore scientists are looking into possible encapsulated formulations to ensure slow release of the product.

Probiotics are also an interesting area of research, with more studies required.

Tim concluded his talk by indicating that there is still a lot to learn about the microbes in the rumen and what they are actually doing. Maybe we need to rewrite some of the textbooks based on new data that is emerging?

He also proposed a suitable definition for sustainability:

Sustainability: when everyone is happy.

Greenhouse gas emissions are just one part of the whole picture of environmental, social and economic factors when it comes to “sustainable” future agriculture.

Download presentation 

  1. pdf 09_McAllister_1405_revised.pdf (3.08MB)

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