29 Jan 2010

Breakthrough in methane research

8:47 am on 29 January 2010

AgResearch scientists have achieved another step in the search for ways of reducing methane emissions from livestock.

Animals such as sheep, cattle and deer are major sources of methane, New Zealand's most prominent greenhouse gas.

Scientists at AgResearch have mapped the DNA sequence or genetic blueprint of one of the microbes responsible for producing methane in the stomachs of cattle and sheep.

Research team leader, Dr Graeme Attwood, says this gives detailed information essential to try to understand how it operates and how to reduce its activity.

Dr Attwood's team and other AgResearch scientists are using the genetic information to target the methane producing microbes in two ways; developing a vaccine to use against them and finding a way of inhibiting the enzymes that the microbes need to survive.

Mark Aspin, of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium which is funding the work, says it will also have wider application in other research programmes to reduce livestock emissions.

Mr Aspin estimates they're still about seven years away from getting a methane solution on to the market.