A Chinese official has praised the global value of carbon reduction research at The University of Western Australia's Future Farm, where scientists have found that a common Australian native plant can greatly reduce on-farm greenhouse gas emission.
Agriculture - which emits 16 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gasses from human activity (second only to fossil fuel) - is also a major industry in China's highly productive Zhejiang Province, which borders the East China Sea, south of Shanghai.
Chinese delegates led by Zhejiang Province's Director-General of Agriculture, Mr Shi Jixi, recently visited UWA Future Farm at Pingelly (140km SE of Perth) to inspect new research, including trials of the ability of Eremophila glabra, or ‘Tarbush', to reduce methane emissions.
UWA PhD student Xixi Li has found that Tarbush - which grows prolifically across southern Australia and has been used for thousands of years as a traditional Aboriginal medicine to cure fevers and colds - may be able to significantly lower the large amounts of methane gas emitted by Australia's 74 million sheep.
It also has the potential to kill internal parasites that reduce meat, wool and milk production, and which are becoming resistant to on-farm oral chemical treatments, Miss Li said.
Mr Jixi said he was very impressed by research trials at UWA Future Farm, which he told delegates had broad significance for the whole world. "It creates a deep impression and has given me new ideas for combining production and environmental management while also looking after the lifestyle of the farmers," he said. "We want to learn from your methods and approach to research to help our future development in agriculture."
The Deputy Director of UWA's Institute of Agriculture, Professor Graeme Martin, said the potential of low-methane producing Tarbush to kill parasites could help farmers cut carbon pollution, grow healthier sheep and save on the cost of parasite control, which required regular oral drenching with chemical drugs.
Tarbush is a common Australian native plant that grows all over Australia. It prefers a dry climate, which makes it ideal for WA and South Australia, where sheep, wool and milk production are major domestic and export industries. As a native shrub, it is also beneficial for biodiversity management.
The UWA Future Farm visitors were part of a delegation of more than 300 led by Zhejiang Province Governor Xia Baolong who flew to Perth to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Province's Sister State relationship with Western Australia.