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Industry Leadership On Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research

Leadership and a commitment to cost-effective science has enabled the agribusiness sector to put together a comprehensive plan for research into the mitigation of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, says Primary Industries Council chairman Ian Robb.

"The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Strategy will seek safe, cost-effective greenhouse gas abatement technologies which will lower total methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock by at least 20% below 'business as usual' by 2012," Mr Robb said. "We will pursue this target by first seeking to reduce methane emissions per unit of production, as this is the most realistic short-term goal."

Mr Robb said the research strategy combined the recommendations of the O'Hara report with the strategy of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and other relevant industry research. The research programme would be led by the consortium, which was established in 2002 in partnership with the Government through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

"Our approach has always been that this research should combine environmental responsibility with productivity improvement, and do so in a commercially robust way," said Mr Robb. "Because industry are the main funders, any intellectual property that arises can be commercialised by the relevant sector or company. We are pleased that both industry and government have achieved their objective of a comprehensive science programme without having to resort to legislation."

The total cost of the research programme will be $7.0 million (GST inclusive) in 2003-04. The industry will contribute $4.7 million, more than half of it either recently initiated or new funding and the remainder reallocated. The remaining $2.3 million will be public funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

A further $3.6 million of 'underpinning' research funded by the industry is identified in the strategy. This research is not directly focused on agricultural emission mitigation but supports work in that area and enables the costs of mitigation research to be reduced.

Mr Robb said each element in the programme would be regularly evaluated and investment would be increased or decreased according to prospects. An international Science Review Panel would oversee that process and evaluate new research prospects as they arose.

"The process of developing a research strategy has successfully identified the research opportunities that will deliver best value for the primary sector participants in the programme," said Mr Robb.

Mr Mark Leslie, the chairman of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Consortium, which will manage the science programme commented that adaptation of existing research programmes and careful coordination of effort has delivered a comprehensive research strategy covering the key areas identified in the O'Hara report at lower cost than the $8.4 million Dr O'Hara estimated. In one instance the strategy has saved almost $1 million by identifying an existing animal trial to which methane mitigation research can be added, rather than requiring a new trial to be established.

"In developing this strategy the Primary Industries Council and the industry organisations behind the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium have shown the merit of a rational, pragmatic approach to the assessment of new research opportunities," Mr Robb said. "I am pleased that we can now move ahead with research designed to deliver results for both agriculture and the environment."

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