AgResearch scientists are looking at whether farmers might be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by growing high-yielding pasture plants with a lower nitrogen content.
The project is one of 18 science programmes to receive the first funding from the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Centre formed last year to co-ordinate research efforts.
The centre's director, Dr Harry Clark, says the AgResearch project is a new line of research.
He says reducing the nitrogen in pasture plants without compromising productivity is theoretically possible, through genetic modification, but he stresses it's at a very early, exploratory stage.
Dr Clark says low-nitrogen plants would also address the problem of leaching of nitrogen into waterways.
The Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is also funding further work to improve the performance of the nitrification inhibitor products now available, to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and run-off from pasture.