Solving the question of how to take the odor out of manure is a motivating force behind some of the current research at Iowa State University’s Atmospheric Air Quality Lab at the National Swine Research and Information Center.
According to Steve Hoff, an ISU professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, a properly working biofilter can reduce odor emissions by up to 90 percent. A biofilter is a special filter that is placed near the fans of a building, where it then collects odor-infused animal dust and filters odors from various gases.
Hoff and ISU Extension ag engineer Jay Harmon currently are conducting research with Iowa producers to solve manure odor problems.
“We’re trying to find common sense approaches that are reasonably priced so that farmers can stay in business and yet be environmentally friendly to their neighbors,” Harmon said.
Vegetative environmental buffers, diet manipulation and biofilters all have demonstrated environmental effectiveness in manure odor control. Along with conducting odor and wind studies, Harmon is examining building site location. “If a building can be sited properly, it can save a lot of problems for everyone down the line.”
Greg Carlson’s farm near Stratford is one of the test sites for ISU’s research with biofilter systems. Carlson has a 400-sow herd farrow-to-finish unit that has been running with a biofilter system for over a year.
“I offered to volunteer for the project since we’re only 25 miles from campus,” Carlson said. “We’re always trying to learn new things with our farming operation, and this helps out the university, which in turn helps out the industry.”
He added, “We’re in our second year of a longer-term study with results that are more viable and reliable for the producers.”
Extension is educating farmers through air quality meetings. Hoff currently is working on sessions based on case studies that will help producers build or update buildings for maximum odor reduction.
Carlson added, “You’ll probably never get rid of odors completely in animal agriculture, but you can do things to minimize it and make things more livable for everyone.”