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NZ leading world pastoral greenhouse gas research

Media Release 12.9.2006

New Zealand leading the world in pastoral greenhouse gas research

An independent review of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC) says it is producing world-leading research and is excellent value for money.

The review, involving independent experts and carried out by the Foundation for Research Science & Technology was the highlight of the past year Board Chairman Mark Leslie told the Annual General Meeting of the Consortium in Wellington yesterday (14/9).

PGGRC is funded by key industry partners: Fonterra Co-Operative Ltd, Meat & Wool New Zealand Ltd, Dairy InSight, PGG-Wrightson Ltd, the New Zealand Fertiliser Manufacturers Research Association Inc, DEEResearch Ltd, and AgResearch Ltd along with Ravensdown Fertiliser Coop Ltd. The Crown, through the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, has matched this funding.

Associate members of the Consortium are the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Research providers and contributors are AgResearch, Livestock Improvement Corporation (Boviquest), Dexcel and Lincoln University.

Mr Leslie said the organisation had helped develop the science, capability and knowledge that were non-existent in 2002 when the Consortium was established.

Over the past four years the Consortium has invested about $14million in a range of scientific programmes aimed at reducing agricultural greenhouse gases. The review identified this as the most comprehensive programme of its kind in the world.

In addition to direct funding the agricultural sector has also funded other productivity research, which has driven greater efficiency leading to lower emissions per unit of product. Comparing dairy production in 1990 with that in 2003 illustrates the point. In 1990 a kg of milk solids carried a cost of 400g of methane while in 2003 the same kg of milk solids could be produced at a cost of 315g of methane. These significant gains have come through farming animals more efficiently, Mr Leslie said.

He said while there was no “immediate silver bullet,” a number of mitigation solutions showed promise and the Consortium was currently following up a number of promising scientific opportunities ranging from tackling microbes in the rumen of cattle, deer and sheep to diet manipulation and selective breeding of livestock.

The approach has been to consider the whole farm system and how mitigation technologies fit with day to day farming.

PGGRC Manager Mark Aspin said the Consortium had made “excellent progress” in the past four years. It had dramatically advanced knowledge on the complexities of the biological system in ruminants and tested at least six promising technologies in New Zealand conditions.

“Farmers are gradually gaining an understanding of how much methane their stock produce. Grazing animals loose about 7-11 per cent of the energy they eat producing methane. If we can find a way to cut down on the production of methane in all grazing livestock then that energy will be available for other productivity,” he said.

Now, in the last year of its initial research programme, industry participants are currently finalizing plans to continue the work of the Consortium for the next five years.

“Given the national impact of agriculture emissions, PGGRC will need to exploit the research gains it has created in the last four years if it is to reduce emissions to 1990 levels,” Mr Aspin said.

ENDS

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