The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases was launched in December 2009 and currently has 33 member countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana,  Indonesia, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Vietnam).  Participation in the Alliance is voluntary and each country determines the nature and extent of its own participation in any Alliance activities.

The Livestock Research Group (LRG), jointly coordinated by New Zealand and the Netherlands, is one of three groups established under the Alliance in April 2010. The other two Research Groups are ‘Croplands’ and ‘Paddy Rice’. 

Within these Research Groups, dedicated networks and databases have been identified as useful tools to accelerate research efforts and achieve outcomes that no country could achieve on its own. 

The LRG endorses several international research networks including the Animal Selection, Genetics and Genomics Network (ASSGN), which is managed by Dr Hutton Oddy (Agriculture New South Wales, Australia) and Grant Shackell (AgResearch, Invermay, Mosgiel, New Zealand). The ASGGN is focused on bringing together scientists working in the area of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant livestock using animal selection, genetics and genomics techniques.

The increased sharing of experiences and data, and identification of new collaborations and connections, will accelerate progress towards much-needed solutions.

The general aim of animal breeding is to select animals to produce offspring that ensure that each generation is genetically superior to its antecedents.  Making continued improvement requires defined breeding objectives that target the trait(s) of interest.  The biggest hurdle to developing and establishing breeding objectives is variability between animals and between measurements, and unravelling the part that genetics play in this.   

Establishing the heritability of methane emissions and its genetic associations with other performance traits is key to predicting the expected responses to selection.  Understanding how these parameters change with environment (i.e., genotype by environmental interactions) is also important for incorporation into breeding objectives.   

Existing data from key international institutions can be used to determine correlations between genetic production traits and low methane-emitting phenotypes. The ASGGN uses the power of international collaboration to combine existing phenotype information and leverage experience with methane production measurements. For data pooling to be meaningful, it is essential that all participants use standardised methodologies, data capture, data storage and presentation, and that these are accessible in a shared environment.   

The ASGGN provides that environment.

The imperative for the network, initiated at a May 2011 workshop in Auckland; NZ and endorsed by the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases, is an ability to debate and reach agreement on a variety of topics including:
  • common protocols for measurement of CH4 emissions(and associated traits) or at least calibrations of measurement differences between countries
  • co-measurement of appropriate correlated and productive traits
  • formalised protocols for collection and storage of DNA from all animals measured and also protocols for collection and storage of rumen samples from all animals measured
  • criteria for data sharing and analysis (including meta analysis) among all contributing parties

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