Translating climate change science into practical solutions

Dr Harry Clark
Harry Clark.

New Zealand’s climate change science programme is working to make sure its research can be translated into practical solutions in the paddock.

nzagrc-highlights-2016The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) has released its 2016 Highlights report.

Centre director Dr Harry Clark says the past year has seen increased momentum and growing interest in the climate change space, since the Paris agreement last December when over 100 countries pledged to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in this area,” he reports, adding that working alongside the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRC), usable results, outputs and publications continue to emerge from NZAGRC research.

“We keep a close eye on ensuring that the outcomes of our funding can be translated into practical solutions; in some areas, notably, the animal breeding and inhibitor space, discussions with potential partners are underway. These are being led by PGgRC in line with agreed commercialisation strategies.”

In addition to experimental work, NZAGRC-funded scientists have increased their engagement with farmers over the past year, through the Integrated Farm Systems and Māori programmes, he says.

Science highlights over the 2015-2016 year include several steps towards practical solutions. These include:

  • The identification of four methane inhibitors that reduce methane in vivo for an extended period, which have potential for further development.
  • Work has also confirmed that low methane sheep maintain differences under grazing conditions and give an indication of positive economic benefits.
  • Animal trials have shown that prototype vaccinations can produce high levels of methanogen-specific antibody entering the stomach.
  • Naturally occuring compounds have been identified that can reduce nitrification and lower nitrous oxide emissions.
  • Machinery has been field-tested that allows farmers to better target their use of mitigation technologies.
  • Improved modelling gives confidence that there is potential to increase the amount of carbon stored in New Zealand’s agricultural soils.
  • On-farm mitigation options have been identified and evaluated using farm systems models on two sheep and beef farmers.
  • Modelling on four Māori case-study farms has identified mitigation options that can result in modest reductions at no cost.

Key joint initiatives with the PGgRC in 2015/2016 include: evaluation of the joint methane research programme, continued implementation of a joint communications strategy and also NZAGRC support for PGgRC-led engagement to build relationships with commercialisation partners.

“Highlights for the staff this year include the coordination of a collaborative project with the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO). Our international work also involved working with FAO and CCAFS (the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security) and South-East Asian countries involved in the Global Research Alliance (GRA) to help them develop more rigorous accounting methodologies.

Total funding for the Centre in 2015-2016 was $5.61 million, covering core research programmes, other research including fellowships and short-term projects and administration. In addition to the investment made in climate change science, funding has also been used to provide workshop support and to implement a joint communications plan with the PGgRC. A quarter of the funding was spent on work relating to methane mitigation, 24 percent on nitrous oxide, 24 percent on integrated farm systems, 21 percent on soil carbon and six percent on Māori.




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