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Published: Friday 16 August, 2013

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Agricultural scientists say a genetically engineered clover may be able to reduce the methane emissions from livestock such as cows and sheep by 10 per cent.

Scientists from AgResearch and one of its subsidiaries, Grasslanz Technology Ltd, said today they can switch on a gene in white clover to give cows and sheep extra protein, reduce emissions of methane and nitrogen waste, and improve animal health.

Though the state science company le pliage tote bag sale said in a statement that the work may result in clovers which have not been genetically modified, AgResearch scientist Jimmy Suttie said the white clover would be genetically engineered, though only with genetic material from other clover species.

Theres a scrubby little rabbits foot clover which produces tannins in its leaves and stems, he said.

Genetic material from this species could be put into white clover to trigger the same effect.

Grazing animals lose between 7 per cent and 11 per cent of the energy they eat because microorganisms in their first stomach, the rumen, produce methane.

These livestock burps produce about 90 per cent of the methane that makes up 43 per cent of NZs greenhouse gas emissions, but farmers have refused to be accountable for the emissions on the grounds that there are no effective tools to control them.

S le pliage tote bag sale ome of the ways now available for methane emissions to be mitigated such as using maize silage or other supplementary feeds which produce less methane are more suited to dairying than sheep and beef farms.

AgResearch scientists have previously shown that condensed tannins chemical compounds that are able to bind to and protect protein being broken down early in digestion can directly reduce methane emissions when livestock eat them in forage plants such as found in some pasture species, such as lotus, a legume. But such plants can be difficult to establish and keep growing in grazed pastures.

Dr Suttie, science general manager of AgResearchs applied biotechnologies, said a GE white clover could benefit not only farmers but the environment.

Currently white clover contains extremely low levels of tannins found only in the flowers, and if we can alter this to allow condensed tannins to accumulate to effective levels in leaves then well have a major benefit.

There is evidence that tannins can reduce methane emissions from ruminants, and this increases the importance of our work, said Dr Suttie.

A clover which reduced gas retention in livestock could also reduce bloat sometimes seen in animals eating cloverrich pastures when pasture growth is rapid in spring.

The AgResearch announcement was criticised by the Green Party, which said the nations farmers did not have to resort to using genetic engineering to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The agricultural sector already has many options to reduce greenhouse gases, which are not a gamble like GE.

We k le pliage tote bag sale now lower stocking rates, limiting fertilisers and possibly selective breeding of livestock and nitrogen inhibiters are ways to reduce greenhouse emissions, said Green Party coleader Russel Norman.

Dr Norman said there was no need to use GE organisms in the field and widespread use of GE in New Zealand would damage the clean, green image which underpinned agricultural exports. le pliage tote bag sale