Tuesday, 24 May 2022 09:55

Fast-tracking farm emissions science

Written by  Peter Burke
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

A new government-funded organisation, in partnership with industry, is to be set up in an attempt to fast track solutions that farmers can use to deal with climate change emissions.

The Government is setting aside $339 million for the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions, which Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says is designed to gather and accelerate the knowledge and innovation to reduce climate emissions in agriculture.

It comes in the wake of a report earlier this year in which the general manager of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc), Mark Aspin, said there are few, if any, silver bullets coming in the near future to deal with nitrous oxide and methane on NZ farms.

Aspin told Rural News that presently the only way farmers can realistically reduce their emissions is to shrink their businesses. This has led to some industry and government frustration at the overall science system and lack of pace and progress on taking mitigation tools through to commercialisation.

O'Connor says NZ has done a lot of good work with the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, along with work being done internationally through the Global Research Alliance. But he adds there's no one place someone can go to submit ideas or gather information about where things are heading.

"The new organisation will have a mandate to gather the information, design and undertake research - which they will probably contract to places such as AgResearch and Plant & Food or others - and then ensure that that information and knowledge goes out to farmers," O'Connor told Rural News.

The final shape of the organisation has still to be worked out between industry and the Government and whether it will be a stand-alone organisation or come under the umbrella of a government department.

"We can't wait for this to be completed," O'Connor says. "This is a new entity that will gather all that information from the CRIs and universities, bring it into one place and then move it along at an accelerated rate."

It's believed a favoured model could be along the lines of what Zespri and Plant & Food have struck recently to fast track plant breeding: A joint venture between government and the private sector, but with a strong industry voice.

Still being finalised is which industry companies and organisations will sign up to the deal.

O'Connor says the new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions effectively will become an information bank or hub for R&D on issues relating to climate change as it affects agriculture. He wants it to be an industry-led organisation that can provide direction and leadership in an area that is the source of much angst and frustration in the rural sector.

O'Connor says he wants the new centre up and running as soon as possible. "The money is there. We need to get the partnership formalised to get structure in place and move as quickly as we can, as there is no time to waste to meet the 2025 targets."

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