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.
Strategies to reduce methane emissions from farmed ruminants grazing on pasture
Bryce M. Buddle, Michel Denis, Graeme T. Attwood, Eric Altermann, Peter H. Janssen, Ron S. Ronimus, Cesar S. Pinares-Patiño, Stefan Muetzel, D. Neil Wedlock, Strategies to reduce methane emissions from farmed ruminants grazing on pasture, The Veterinary Journal, Volume 188, Issue 1, 2011, Pages 11-17, ISSN 1090-0233
Methane emissions from livestock are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and have become a focus of research activities, especially in countries where agriculture is a major economic sector. Understanding the complexity of the rumen microbiota, including methane-producing Archaea, is in its infancy. There are currently no robust, reproducible and economically viable methods for reducing methane emissions from ruminants grazing on pasture and novel innovative strategies to diminish methane output from livestock are required. In this review, current approaches towards mitigation of methane in pastoral farming are summarised. Research strategies based on vaccination, enzyme inhibitors, phage, homoacetogens, defaunation, feed supplements, and animal selection are reviewed. Many approaches are currently being investigated, and it is likely that more than one strategy will be required to enable pastoral farming to lower its emissions of methane significantly. Different strategies may be suitable for different farming practices and systems
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