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Farming: Methane Reductions

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to help UK farmers to reduce emissions of methane through (a) increasing milk yields, (b) promoting advanced food types and feeding regimes and (c) aiding research into (i) the use of probiotics and (ii) other proposed solutions. (112857)

DEFRA announced a £750,000 investment in research on ruminant nutrition regimes to reduce methane and nitrogen emissions in December 2006. This research project will build on our knowledge base and take an integrated approach to the development of ruminant nutrition regimes to deliver reductions in total greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, per animal and per unit of meat and milk output. Approaches for consideration include the modification of forage based diets, alterations to concentrate feed formulation and ingredients, and feed supplements. All options and solutions will be looked at.

This research builds on a wealth of past work, where MAFF and DEFRA have invested in research to improve the productivity of dairy cattle. The resulting increases in individual cow milk yields can reduce methane emissions per unit of milk produced. The DEFRA research has included for example developing grass varieties that are high in sugar and lead indirectly to a reduction in methane emissions. Complementary private sector research, including research sponsored by DEFRA through our Sustainable Livestock LINK Programme, has raised the efficiency of dairy production.

The Government are also developing a strategy on anaerobic digestion (AD), a system that can be used to capture and utilise methane emissions from livestock wastes, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. AD is particularly applicable and effective on dairy units, and provides a potential source of renewable energy and heat.