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.

1315 Peter Janssen, Principal Scientist (AgResearch)

Peter gave an interesting overview of how ruminants produce methane and the strategies that are being investigated for reducing, or even eliminating, this methane.

Feeds which lead to reduced methane production have been studied and the science team now have a fairly good understanding of why feeding brassicas lowers methane emissions. It is due to changes in the rumen bacterial community.

Breeding for low methane animals is also progressing well and a number of reasons for the differences in emissions have been discovered.

Vaccine and inhibitor development involves in-depth knowledge of the rumen methanogens in order to decide how to target and knock them out. Genomic studies have aided this work and also investigating rumen contents from around the world has helped to identify the prime candidates.

The vaccine and inhibitor programmes are currently in the midst of animal trials and, given recent positive results, the teams are hopeful that proof of concept will be established very soon.

See more about the progress in the inhibitors programme 

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