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.

Forage brassica: a feed to mitigate enteric methane emissions?

Sun Xuezhao, Pacheco David, Luo Dongwen (2016) Forage brassica: a feed to mitigate enteric methane emissions?. Animal Production Science 56, 451-456.

A series of experiments was conducted in New Zealand to evaluate the potential of forage brassicas for mitigation of enteric methane emissions. Experiments involved sheep and cattle fed winter and summer varieties of brassica forage crops. In the sheep-feeding trials, it was demonstrated that several species of forage brassicas can result, to a varying degree, in a lower methane yield (g methane per kg of DM intake) than does ryegrass pasture. Pure forage rape fed as a winter crop resulted in 37% lower methane yields than did pasture. Increasing the proportion of forage rape in the diet of sheep fed pasture linearly decreased methane yield. Feeding forage rape to cattle also resulted in 44% lower methane yield than did feeding pasture. In conclusion, reductions in methane emission are achievable by feeding forage brassicas, especially winter forage rape, to sheep and cattle. Investigating other aspects of these crops is warranted to establish their value as a viable mitigation tool in pastoral farming.

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