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.

Global solutions to reduce methane emissions from ruminant animals are feasible, because the microbes causing the emissions are similar around the world

The New Zealand-led “Global Rumen Census” project analysed the microbes responsible for ethane emissions from a wide range of ruminant animals around the world. The project found imilar bacteria and methanogens dominate in nearly all rumens across a wide variety of species and animal diets. This means that new technologies that seek to reduce methane emissions by influencing rumen microbes should have global applications.

The results of the Global Rumen Census were released on 9 October 2015 in the open-access journal Scientific Reports.

Global press release

pdf GRC Global Release (0.31MB) 

New Zealand press release

pdf GRC New Zealand Release (0.34MB) 

Science Q&A

pdf GRC Q&A (0.29MB) 

Rumen microbial community composition varies with diet and host, but a core microbiome is found across a wide geographical range
G. Henderson, F. Cox, S. Ganesh, A. Jonker, W. Young, P.H. Janssen. 2015.
Scientific Reports 5: 14567.

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