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.

Scientist AgResearch - Dr Robyn Dynes

Agriculture has always been part of Dr Robyn Dynes’ daily life.

She was born into a Southland farming environment and her parents moved to a sheep and beef property on the rolling hills at Arthurton, running 1500 ewes, beef cattle and slow race horses.  

“With the promise of no mud, we moved to a small mixed cropping farm in Mid Canterbury where most of my teenage years were spent,” says Robyn.

“I could administer tetanus treatment, sort wool in the shearing shed, run the tedder across a paddock cut for hay or muster a mob of sheep with my pony and the dog at a very early age.

“By my teen years, I was doing tractor work, spraying or I would like to say driving the header, but somehow I always seemed to be the one driving the chaser bin and shifting augers while my brothers sat on the header … or for some variety working in shearing sheds throwing fleeces all day.”

Robyn’s studied for a BAg Sci (Hons) from Lincoln College, with the honours in equine endocrinology. She worked as an animal nutritionist until she decided that was not a long-term goal.

The offer of a scholarship convinced her to return to Lincoln University to complete a PhD in ruminant nutrition and physiology.

Robyn first got interested in GHG mitigation through colleagues at CSIRO who were researching a methane vaccine, but she credits hearing NZAGRC Director Harry Clark at a conference in the mid-2000s as the real ‘ah ha moment’ for her as a farm systems scientist.

As Science Impact Leader, Farm Systems & Environment (Dairy) for AgResearch, Robyn leads the Integrated Farm Systems Research programme for NZAGRC. Her approach is to look at the "business unit of New Zealand farming" - the whole farm.

The Sheep and Beef part of her research involves monitoring two farms for over three years, to grasp how stocking policies and farm management decisions impact on emissions intensity and absolute emissions.

“We have explored future scenarios for the farms and how these will impact on GHG emissions and how creating multi-functional landscapes would contribute to carbon stocks on the farms and ‘offset’ biological emissions,” says Robyn.

“The other work area aims to build a large database of GHG emissions from different regions and farm classes across NZ. We are exploring this regional data to understand the variability in emissions, the key drivers of these emissions and the opportunities which individual farmers and the industry have to contribute to future GHG targets. The analysis is based within the context of profitability.”

In the Dairy part of the programme, GHG scientists, communications experts and a behaviour change expert have developed a framework for a behaviour change programme for farmers wanting to change the GHG emissions of their dairy farm while maintaining profitability and delivering to water quality regulations.

Outside work, Robyn enjoys walking her dog, road biking, mountain biking, netball … “hanging with the kids, wine and food, and fast cars!”

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