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IN ACTION

METHAGENE: Research network on the genetics of methane production in ruminants

 

Livestock production makes a significant contribution to global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A considerable proportion of this contribution results from enteric methane released by ruminants. Many factors influence methane production in the rumen, but genetics also play a significant role.

 

The heritability of methane production is large enough so that genetic selection may be used as a mitigation strategy.

Recent technological advances in measurement of the composition of mixed gases, as well as in animal genomics, now make it feasible to implement methane selection programmes, at least in theory. However, additional research is needed, as well as coordination among researchers and the livestock breeding agencies. To this end, the European Union has recently decided to fund a research network on the genetics of methane production in ruminants through its “COST” (Cooperation in Science and Technology) action programme . Given FAO’s expertise in livestock genetics and its work with the GHG production of livestock, METHAGENE organizers requested FAO’s participation.

 

METHAGENE is being led by researchers from Wageningen (Netherlands) and Aarhus (Denmark) Universities and will have a four-year duration. More information about METHAGENE can be found at the project website. A project kick-off meeting was held 8 May in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and an FAO officer participated in the meeting.


The COST Action projects deal primarily with networking and generally do not support research directly. However, the European Union has invested in directly supporting research on the genetics of enteric methane production, including the “RUMINOMICS” project , which involves several members of the METHAGENE network.