One of the angriest complaints rural residents often lodge against modern hog farmers is that their operations stink. Literally.

Odor control, especially during warmer summer months, is an ongoing challenge for even the best-managed pork production operation. But in Iowa, the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers has developed a new Green Farmstead Partner program to help plant vegetative buffers around production sites that can help mitigate odor problems.

Based on research headed by Dr. John Tyndall, of Iowa State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management, the program pairs farmers around the state with nursery professionals to custom design shelterbelts of trees that can help contain livestock odor.

“Right now, we have nearly 20 nurseries participating, with more than 50 farm families that have expressed an interest in putting in a vegetative barrier around their hog barns,” said Rita Cook, assistant field specialist with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. “We held a workshop this summer at the Iowa Soybean Association facility, and we’re excited about the potential of the program.”

Tyndall, in a paper titled, “Mitigating swine odor with strategically designed shelterbelt systems,” co-authored with fellow Iowa State University researcher Joe Colletti, reported that odors emitted from so-called concentrated livestock production is indeed a significant social problem that negatively impacts rural and state economies, human health and the quality of rural life.

The researchers noted that the chemicals that comprise the characteristic odors easily recognized by anyone who’s gotten up close and personal with a hog farm are volatile organic compounds that are easily absorbed onto and carried on particulate matter—dust and dirt—that is generated in animal houses and during manure storage and land application.

“The majority of odors generated in animal facilities that are detectable at appreciable distances travel as particulates,” they wrote. “There is compelling evidence that shelterbelts can ameliorate these odors by impeding the movement of these particulates. Since the odor source is near the ground, shelterbelts of modest heights—20 to 30 feet high—may be ideal for odor interception, disruption and dilution.”

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