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Spotlight   |  Spring 2005

Science, smells and safety

 

Image: Brian Richert

A mass of hoses and wires helps researcher Brian Richert monitor the air quality at Purdue's swine research facility. Each plastic tube draws air from several locations within a dozen hog pens. The tubes are connected to a computer that analyzes air quality. (Photo by Tom Campbell).

A new state-of-the-art facility, cutting-edge equipment and the human nose are aiding Purdue scientists' search for ways to minimize noxious smells and possible air and water contaminants coming from livestock barns.

The researchers are working with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Pork Board to ensure that animal farms are as odor-free as possible and safe for animals and people. Their studies are testing different diets and management practices to determine how they contribute to aromas and other air and water pollutants from animal waste.

“Large livestock facilities don't fall under current emissions standards because no baseline data exists for such operations, and there is even less information on the odor issue,” says animal sciences professor Brian Richert.

Image: Al Heber

High-tech plays a role in measuring air and water pollution, including odor, that emanates from livestock farms. But for some of the data gathering, Purdue researcher Al Heber uses odor-filled bags and human noses. (Photo by Tom Campbell)

“This is because it's very difficult to do measurements.”

A new 15,500-square-foot, 12-room Swine Environmental Research Building can hold 720 hogs and replicate conditions at a working farm. Researchers say the facility—the only one of its kind in the United States —will solve the problem of how to gather emissions data.

The information collected will enable researchers to calculate how far away a livestock facility must be from a neighbor to minimize the odor, says agricultural and biological engineering professor Al Heber, who has one of only six laboratories in the country that study emissions connected with odor. The data also will help producers adjust management and feed practices to reduce environmental impact.

Richert and Heber are members of the Purdue Agricultural Air Quality Team, recipient of the 2005 Purdue Agriculture Team Award. The annual award recognizes outstanding research conducted by an interdisciplinary group of researchers. The award, which includes $10,000 to support the team's research projects, was presented in May.

Additionally, Heber has been selected by an animal agriculture clean air consortium to lead a national $9 million study to help the EPA establish air emissions standards for the livestock and poultry industries.

 

 

© 2005 Purdue University College of Agriculture

 

 

 

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