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How woolgrowers are mitigating methane

The wool industry is exploring the most effective solutions to mitigate methane, improving the eco-credentials of Merino wool from farm through to finished product, the use phase and ultimately end-of-life of the garment.

The global fashion and textiles industry contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The production, transportation and care of clothing all generate greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

What is Methane?

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. It is produced by a variety of sources, including fugitive emissions from mining and fracking as well as the digestive systems of ruminant animals such as sheep, goats, cattle and deer. When ruminants consume grass, microbes in their stomachs break down the cellulose which enables digestion and releases methane as a by-product. This digestive process is known as enteric fermentation.

The methane produced by ruminants is ‘biogenic methane’ as it is part of the natural carbon cycle – on release to the atmosphere it gradually breaks down into CO2 and again becomes available to be taken up by plants through photosynthesis. In contrast, ‘fossil methane’ and CO2 from the mining and burning of coal, oil and gas add an extra burden on the atmosphere. This carbon is not part of the natural carbon cycle - it had been safely stored underground for millions of years, but is now being added to the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels, which is the dominant source of the world’s greenhouse gases, has changed the natural balance in the carbon cycle and increased greenhouse warming responsible for climate change.

GHG diagram-btb Dec21.jpg


Reducing Methane Emissions in the Australian Wool Industry

The wool industry is committed to reducing methane emissions from grazing sheep and Woolmark is proactively investing in a variety of research to achieve this outcome.

Current research shows that methane emissions from sheep can fall by as much as 80% by adding a small amount of the seaweed Asparagopsis to the sheep’s diet.

Red algae Asparagopsis seaweed has been found to reduce sheep methane emissions. PHOTO: Courtesy Sea Forest.

How feed additives and sheep can help to tackle climate change

Research has identified methane-mitigating feed additives for grazing sheep as having significant potential to reduce the carbon footprint of wool within the next 10 years.

The Woolmark Company’s parent body, AWI, initiated the National Sheep Methane Program (NSMP) which is a collaborative approach to research, development and adoption (RD&A) to implement practical and safe ways for producers to reduce methane emissions in Australian sheep grazing systems. The NSMP is coordinated across the main sheep producing states in Australia, and five studies are currently underway to explore the effectiveness of a range of methane-mitigating additives, including the red algae seaweed Asparagopsis ssp., Agolin Ruminant, Bromoform, and 3-NOP. The NSMP is also researching the most suitable form of delivery (for example, solid or liquid) and the best mechanism for delivery to grazing sheep at scale.


Asparagopsis grown by Sea Forest in Tasmania, Australia. PHOTO: Courtesy Sea Forest

How woolgrowers can reduce their emissions

Woolgrowers play a pivotal role in combatting climate change, by implementing sustainable practices on their farms. Many woolgrowers work hard to leave the land in a better condition for future generations and AWI is investing in research to provide them with the  tools that are most relevant to their region to enhance their farm’s natural capital. The focus is on techniques that sequester carbon in the soil and vegetation, as well as increase biodiversity.



Farming for the Future

A new ecological assessment process, called Natural Capital Accounting, is being developed to enable woolgrowers to track the environmental health of their farm.

The Farming For the Future projects aims to clarify the relationship between enhancing on-farm natural capital and biodiversity and the financial performance of the farm over time. It also aims to develop tools and resources to make the evidence base relevant and accessible for woolgrowers.

Learn more about Natural Capital Accounting for wool-growing, here.

Carbon Storage Partnership

Evidence is growing that biodiversity improves as carbon sequestion increases. The Carbon Storage Partnership will provide regionally relevant pathways for Australian woolgrowers to improve their natural capital and sequester carbon. It aims to provide baseline data for biophysical, economic and environmental status of the case study regions, and then provide regionally relevant adaptations to store carbon and improve biodiversity on farm.

The Carbon Storage Partnership aims to:

  1. Benchmark and compare the effects of grazing and soil management, planting trees and holistic farm management across wool-growing farms.
  2. Co-design tools that allow improvement in natural capital, biodiversity, profitability, productivity and reduction of net farm greenhouse gas emissions for specific regions across Australia.
  3. Inform Australian farmers on the most effective ways to improve the natural capital for their environment and enterprise mix.
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Sustainability and Wool

Delve into global sustainability frameworks and strategies to support impact reduction in the fashion and textiles industry.

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