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.
Dr Peter Janssen, Principal Investigator
Dr Peter Janssen is the Principal Investigator of the NZAGRC-PGgRc methane mitigation programme at AgResearch, and co-ordinates and contributes to the different work streams developing technologies to reduce ruminant methane emissions. He has established methods for investigating the microbial ecology of the rumen ecosystem, and for isolating novel rumen microbes.
Peter has been involved in several global projects to increase knowledge of the rumen, most notably co-leading the Global Rumen Census project. This study demonstrated, that across a variety of diets and ruminant species, the major groups of rumen microbes around the globe are largely the same, which potentially will help for global application.
Peter is an internationally recognised expert in isolating so-called unculturable microbes.
Prior to joining AgResearch, he was an Associate Professor and Reader at the University of Melbourne, where his research team made recognised advances in solving the “Great Plate Count Anomaly”, which is "a name given to the observation that there are generally about 100 times more bacteria in a sample from any environment than can be grown on agar plates" explains Peter. While in Melbourne, Peter got to move a little outside the normal academic sphere, when he was the scientific advisor to the award-winning ABC documentary "Alien Underworld".
Peter's research work with NZAGRC and the PGgRc forms part of three different mitigation approaches - breeding low methane emitting ruminants; finding inhibitors that reduce the amount of methane formed in the rumen of grazing ruminants; and developing a vaccine so that the animal's antibodies naturally control the methane-forming microbes in the rumen.
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