Researchers at Iowa State University soon will receive a USDA National Research Initiative grant of nearly $480,000 to investigate odor dispersion from swine facilities.

Iowa State is the lead institution in a three-state effort that also includes the University of Minnesota and the University of Nebraska. The project involves measuring downwind odors from pork production facilities and how those odors are affected by such things as weather patterns, season of the year, growth cycle of the animals and building design and management.

Steve Hoff, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, says the project has three objectives. "One is to evaluate methods currently being used to measure odors downwind from swine facilities," he explains. "We will be studying three measurement methods to determine which one does the best job of accurately measuring odors at nearby residences or communities."   

The second objective, and the project's ultimate goal, is to develop a computer model that can be used by pork producers and community planners. "This tool will help when decisions are being made on the appropriateness of a particular site for a new production facility, when a facility expansion is being considered, or when a producer is considering implementing some type of odor reduction technology," he adds.

Work on an odor dispersion computer model has been underway for several years at Iowa State. Initial funding for the modeling project came from the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. "When this project ends, we will have an 'odor footprint' tool that will predict where and for how long odors from a swine confinement facility will occur," says Hoff.

The third objective is to develop Web-based educational tools that will help people understand how odors are dispersed and how atmospheric conditions can have an effect.

This new project builds on an existing six-state, $2.2 million air-quality study funded by the USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems grants program. In that project, odor and gas emissions from swine and poultry facilities are being evaluated.

State-of-the-art monitoring equipment is being used to collect emissions from six types of animal confinement facilities. In Iowa, a mobile emissions laboratory is recording gas and particulate levels from a private swine finishing facility. Emissions sampling began Oct. 1, 2002 and will continue through March 2004. A final report will be available later in the year. 

Hoff says the difference between the current project and this new one is that odor emissions will be collected and recorded simultaneously from swine facilities, plus locations downwind from those facilities. The two-year project will get underway in February, with odor monitoring beginning in May.

Dwaine Bundy, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, and Jay Harmon, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, will work with Hoff on the new project, in addition to researchers from Minnesota and Nebraska.

Iowa State University