Methods for Measuring Greenhouse Gas Balances and Evaluating Mitigation Options in Smallholder Agriculture

pp 97-117

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A Comparison of Methodologies for Measuring Methane Emissions from Ruminants

  • John P. GoopyAffiliated withInternational Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Email author 
  • , C. ChangAffiliated withCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
  • , Nigel TomkinsAffiliated withCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Livestock Industries


Accurate measurement techniques are needed for determining greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to improve GHG accounting estimates to IPCC Tiers 2 and 3 and enable the generation of carbon credits. Methane emissions from agriculture must be well defined, especially for ruminant production systems where national livestock inventories are generated. This review compares measurement techniques for determining methane production at different scales, ranging from in vitro studies to individual animal or herd measurements. Feed intake is a key driver of enteric methane production (EMP) and measurement of EMP in smallholder production systems face many challenges, including marked heterogeneity in systems and feed base, as well as strong seasonality in feed supply and quality in many areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

In vitro gas production studies provide a starting point for research into mitigation strategies, which can be further examined in respiration chambers or ventilated hood systems. For making measurements under natural grazing conditions, methods include the polytunnel, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and open-path laser. Developing methodologies are briefly described: these include blood methane concentration, infrared thermography, pH, and redox balance measurements, methanogen population estimations, and indwelling rumen sensors.