[1 July/The Country]

An international collaboration led by New Zealand scientists has made an important discovery in the quest to help lower methane emissions from animals. Methane emissions from animals account for around a third of New Zealand’s emissions. The animal itself does not produce methane but rather a group of microbes, called methanogens, that live in the stomach (rumen), and produce methane, mainly from hydrogen and carbon dioxide when digesting feed. The international team, which involved researchers from AgResearch (New Zealand), and the universities of Otago (New Zealand), Monash (Australia), Illinois (USA) and Hokkaido (Japan) has for the first time identified the main rumen microbes and enzymes that both produce and consume that hydrogen. The findings are important because scientists can now begin to target the supply of hydrogen to methanogens as a new way of reducing animal methane emissions.