New Zealand scientists have identified animal-safe compounds that can reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle by up to an impressive 90%. The announcement was made by Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) Chairman and New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) Steering Group member Rick Pridmore in late April this year.
“The results are significant for two reasons,” said Dr Pridmore. “First, because they work on livestock consuming a grass-based diet and, second because the short-term trials showed such dramatic results.”
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy welcomed news of the breakthrough as terrific news for the environment, with livestock methane being New Zealand’s single largest greenhouse gas emissions source, making up 35% of total emissions in 2013.
“Currently, there are no options available to directly reduce livestock methane emissions other than reducing stock numbers, making it particularly challenging to reduce emissions from this sector,” said Mr Guy.
“Being able to produce food sustainably is critical to the New Zealand economy and to help feed a growing global population. If successfully developed and commercialised, the new findings offer the potential to fundamentally change New Zealand’s emissions footprint in the long-term. It could also provide a technology with substantial value for tackling global agricultural emissions.”
“It must be stressed that these are early days,” added Dr Pridmore. “Further trials are needed to confirm these compounds can reduce emissions in the long term, have no adverse effects on productivity and leave no residues in meat or milk.”
The research is funded by the jointly industry/government backed Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and the wholly Government-funded New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre. Collaboration between New Zealand and international scientists, made possible through New Zealand Government funding in support of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases, was critical for reaching this milestone. You can find out more about methane research here.