New Zealand targets cow burps to help reduce global warming
Author: Nick Perry
New Zealand scientists are coming up with some surprising solutions that could put a big dent in those emissions. Among the more promising are selective breeding, genetically modified feed, methane inhibitors, and a potential game-changer - a vaccine. In New Zealand, the research has taken on a new urgency. Because farming is central to the economy, about half of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions come from farms, compared to less than 10% in the U.S. New Zealand’s 5 million people are outnumbered by 26 million sheep and 10 million cattle. As part of a push to become carbon neutral, New Zealand’s government has promised to reduce methane emissions from farm animals by up to 47% by 2050. Scientists have for years been testing sheep in chambers to chart differences in how much methane they belch. The low-emitters have been bred and produced low-emitting offspring. Scientists have also been tracking genetic characteristics common to low-emitting animals that make them readily identifiable. Richard Scott, an AgResearch senior scientist, said they have been able to increase the oil levels in ryegrass leaves by about 2%, which studies indicate should translate to a 10% drop in methane emissions.