New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.

The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA).  It aims to boost production and utilisation of pastures by at least 30 percent on farms in the Southern Cone and Central America.

It will use drones and simulation models to measure and monitor pasture growth and implement a cloud-based service to provide information to more than 4,000 producers to help them optimise pasture management and increase forage production.

“We know effective pasture management is one of the key factors driving on-farm profitability and sustainability, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mr O’Connor.

“Improving the production, conservation and utilisation of pastures will also be a key factor in the ability of farmers to respond to climate change,” said Mr Uriarte.

“New Zealand and Uruguay both have a proud tradition of producing livestock, meat, milk, and wool for export. We have similar land areas dedicated to pasture-based livestock production - around 12 million hectares, and temperate climates allowing for year-round grazing of pastures.”

Despite their small land areas, New Zealand and Uruguay occupy the 6th and 8th positions for beef exports and 2nd and 9th positions for sheep meat exports, respectively.  

The new project aligns with the objectives of the Agricultural Cooperation Agreement between the two countries.  This agreement aims to boost research and collaboration between scientists working on sustainable agricultural and pastoral systems, from organisations such as INIA in Uruguay and AgResearch in New Zealand.

New Zealand is backing the new project through the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), as part of its support for the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA). 

The new project is one of a number supported by MPI, the result of a 2019 research competition organised by the Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology for Latin America and Caribbean (FONTAGRO), a strategic partner of the GRA.

“Through the GRA, New Zealand invests jointly with other member countries to develop technologies and practices to reduce emissions from farming,” said Mr O’Connor.

“Improving management practices through this new project will help us to keep reducing emissions, and I’m excited about the potential of new mitigation technologies such as inhibitors and vaccines currently being developed.”

Over the last 30 years, Uruguay has significantly reduced its emissions intensity by more than 20 percent, mostly from improving pasture quality through improved grazing management.

“I’m pleased this project will include direct participation from farmer organisations in developing tools to inform on-farm decision-making,” Mr Uriarte said.

“Uruguay has ambitious targets as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement, and it’s vital we provide farmers with the information they need to contribute towards achieving these national goals.”

As part of joint efforts, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Uruguay will be organising a virtual Fieldays early in 2021, which will be of interest to farmers, agribusiness, and others in both countries.

“New Zealand and Uruguay have a long standing, cooperative relationship, which has clear benefits for farmers from both countries,” said Mr O’Connor.

“I’m very positive about what the future holds from this close partnership.”

“New Zealand is one of Uruguay’s closest friends in the world and a model of sustainable agriculture production. For that reason, environmental issues and sustainable production systems have been prioritised as key areas for collaboration between the two countries,” said Mr Uriarte.

About the GRA:

  • Uruguay and New Zealand were both founding members of the GRA when it was launched in 2009.
  • Today, it has more than 60 member countries from all regions of the world.
  • New Zealand was the inaugural chair of the GRA and Uruguay chaired the GRA in 2013/14.
  • The GRA also partners with key international and regional organisations responsible for the disseminating evidence-based knowledge to policy makers, the science community, and farming leaders.
  • Members and partners of the GRA aim to deepen and broaden mitigation research efforts across the agricultural sub-sectors of paddy rice (co-chaired by Uruguay), cropping and livestock (co-chaired by New Zealand), and to coordinate cross-cutting activities across these areas.  This includes promoting synergies between adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • The GRA’s objectives are outlined in its Charter and more information on the GRA’s current membership is available here.