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.

The complete genome sequence of Eubacterium limosum SA11, a metabolically versatile rumen acetogen

Kelly, W. J., G. Henderson, et al. (2016). "The complete genome sequence of Eubacterium limosum SA11, a metabolically versatile rumen acetogen." Standards in Genomic Sciences 11(1): 26.

Acetogens are a specialized group of anaerobic bacteria able to produce acetate from CO2 and H2 via the Wood–Ljungdahl pathway. In some gut environments acetogens can compete with methanogens for H2, and as a result rumen acetogens are of interest in the development of microbial approaches for methane mitigation. The acetogen Eubacterium limosum SA11 was isolated from the rumen of a New Zealand sheep and its genome has been sequenced to examine its potential application in methane mitigation strategies, particularly in situations where hydrogenotrophic methanogens are inhibited resulting in increased H2 levels in the rumen. The 4.15 Mb chromosome of SA11 has an average G + C content of 47 %, and encodes 3805 protein-coding genes. There is a single prophage inserted in the chromosome, and several other gene clusters appear to have been acquired by horizontal transfer. These include genes for cell wall glycopolymers, a type VII secretion system, cell surface proteins and chemotaxis. SA11 is able to use a variety of organic substrates in addition to H2/CO2, with acetate and butyrate as the principal fermentation end-products, and genes involved in these metabolic pathways have been identified. An unusual feature is the presence of 39 genes encoding trimethylamine methyltransferase family proteins, more than any other bacterial genome. Overall, SA11 is a metabolically versatile organism, but its ability to grow on such a wide range of substrates suggests it may not be a suitable candidate to take the place of hydrogen-utilizing methanogens in the rumen.

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