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.

Does gibberellin biosynthesis play a critical role in the growth of Lolium perenne? Evidence from a transcriptional analysis of gibberellin and carbohydrate metabolic genes after defoliation

Liu, Q., C. S. Jones, et al. (2015). "Does gibberellin biosynthesis play a critical role in the growth of Lolium perenne? Evidence from a transcriptional analysis of gibberellin and carbohydrate metabolic genes after defoliation." Frontiers in Plant Science 6(NOVEMBER).

Global meat and milk production depends to a large extent on grazed pastures, with Lolium perenne being the major forage grass in temperate regions. Defoliation and subsequent regrowth of leaf blades is a major and essential event with respect to L. perenne growth and productivity. Following defoliation, carbohydrates (mainly fructans and sucrose) have to be mobilized from heterotrophic tissues to provide energy and carbon for regrowth of photosynthetic tissues. This mobilization of reserve carbohydrates requires a substantial change in the expression of genes coding for enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Here we tested the hypothesis that gibberellins (GA) are at the core of the processes regulating the expression of these genes. Thus, we examined the transcript profiles of genes involved in carbohydrate and GA metabolic pathways across a time course regrowth experiment. Our results show that following defoliation, the immediate reduction of carbohydrate concentrations in growing tissues is associated with a concomitant increase in the expression of genes encoding carbohydrate mobilizing invertases, and was also associated with a strong decrease in the expression of fructan synthesizing fructosyltransferase genes. We also show that the decrease in fructan levels is preceded by increased expression of the GA activating gene GA3-oxidase and decreased expression of the GA inactivating gene GA2-oxidase in sheaths. GA3-oxidase expression was negatively, while GA2-oxidase positively linked to sucrose concentrations. This study provides indicative evidence that gibberellins might play a role in L. perenne regrowth following defoliation and we hypothesize that there is a link between gibberellin regulation and sugar metabolism in L. perenne. © 2015 Liu, Jones, Parsons, Xue and Rasmussen.

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