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Methane Emissions from Livestock

  • 05 Oct 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Methane Emissions,

For Mains: Initiatives in India to tackle methane emissions, Significance of methane as a greenhouse gas and its impact on climate change.

Source: DTE

Why in News?

A recent Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, titled "Methane Emissions in Livestock and Rice Systems," highlights the significant climate impact of methane emissions from livestock and rice paddies.

What are the Key Findings from the Report?

  • Sources of Methane Emissions:
    • Ruminant livestock and manure management contribute to approximately 32% of global anthropogenic methane emissions.
    • Rice paddies account for an additional 8% of methane emissions.
    • Besides agrifood systems, other human activities that generate methane emissions include landfills, oil and natural gas systems, coal mines and more.


  • Ruminants are mammals of the suborder Ruminantia (order Artiodactyla).
    • They encompass a diverse group of animals such as giraffes, okapis, deer, cattle, antelopes, sheep, and goats.
  • Most ruminants have a four-chambered stomach and two-toed feet. Camels and chevrotains, however, have a three-chambered stomach and are often referred to as pseudoruminants.
  • Impact of Ruminant Livestock:
    • Among ruminants, cattle are the highest daily emitters of methane, followed by sheep, goats, and buffalo.
    • Ruminant meat and milk are significant protein sources, and global demand for animal products is expected to rise by 60-70% by 2050.
  • Improving Feed Efficiency:
    • Report focuses on improving feed to reduce methane emissions by enhancing feed efficiency.
      • This involves increasing nutrient density, and feed digestibility, altering rumen microbial composition, and selectively breeding animals with negative residual feed intake and smaller metabolic body weight.
    • Enhanced feed efficiency boosts animal productivity per unit of feed, potentially increasing farm profitability based on feed costs and meat/milk revenues.
  • Need for Regional Studies:
    • The report underscores the need for regional studies to quantify the effects of improved nutrition, health, reproduction, and genetics to increase animal production and decrease methane emission.
      • Such studies would help assess the impact of mitigation strategies on net greenhouse gas emissions at a regional level.
  • Strategies for Mitigating Methane Emissions:
    • The study noted four broad strategies in mitigating methane emissions:
      • Animal breeding and management.
      • Feed management, diet formulation and precision feeding.
      • Forages.
      • Rumen manipulation.
  • Challenges and Research Gaps:
    • Challenges include the lack of regional information to calculate carbon footprints and limited economically affordable methane mitigation solutions.
    • Further research is needed to develop practical and cost-effective measures.


  • Methane is the simplest hydrocarbon, consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4).
    • It is flammable, and is used as a fuel worldwide.
  • Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG), which has an atmospheric lifetime of around a decade and affects the climate for hundreds of years.
  • Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years of its lifetime in the atmosphere.
  • The common sources of methane are oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities, coal mining and wastes.

What are the Initiatives to Tackle Methane Emissions?

  • Indian:
    • ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD):
      • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has developed an anti-methanogenic feed supplement ‘Harit Dhara’ (HD), which can cut down cattle methane emissions by 17-20% and can also result in higher milk production.
    • The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA):
      • It is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, involves climate resilient practices including methane reduction practices in rice cultivation.
        • These practices contribute to substantial reduction of methane emissions.
    • National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA):
    • Bharat Stage-VI Norms:
  • Global:
    • Methane Alert and Response System (MARS):
      • MARS will integrate data from a large number of existing and future satellites that have the ability to detect methane emission events anywhere in the world, send out notifications to the relevant stakeholders to act on it.
    • Global Methane Pledge:
      • At the Glasgow climate conference (UNFCCC COP 26) in 2021, nearly 100 countries had come together in a voluntary pledge, referred to as the Global Methane Pledge, to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 from the 2020 levels.
        • India is not a part of Global Methane Pledge.
    • Global Methane Initiative (GMI):
      • It is an international public-private partnership focused on reducing barriers to the recovery and use of methane as a clean energy source.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)


Q1. Which of the following statements is/are correct about the deposits of ‘methane hydrate’? (2019)

  1. Global warming might trigger the release of methane gas from these deposits.
  2. Large deposits of ‘methane hydrate’ are found in Arctic Tundra and under the sea floor.
  3. Methane in atmosphere oxidizes to carbon dioxide after a decade or two.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (d)

Q2. Consider the following: (2019)

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Methane
  3. Ozone
  4. Sulphur dioxide

Which of the above are released into atmosphere due to the burning of crop/biomass residue?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 1 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Ans: (d)

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