Trees Being Considered in the Fight Against Livestock Odor

March 15th, 2005

Monitoring will begin in April to help determine if trees planted around an Iowa poultry production facility can reduce odor and dust.

The monitoring at the Sparboe Farms facility near Eagle Grove is just one part of a multi-faceted research effort to study the use of trees, shrubs and other perennial plants to reduce odors around poultry and egg production facilities.

Iowa State University received a $440,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant last spring to fund a three-year study, which also involves researchers at the University of Delaware and Pennsylvania State University.

Joe Colletti, interim chair of Iowa State's natural resource ecology and management department, said there is some evidence that vegetative buffers reduce odors when planted around poultry facilities. "This project gives us the chance to gather science-based information on the benefit of buffers," Colletti said.

Eastern redcedar and limber pine trees were planted last spring at the Iowa research site. These species were chosen because of their leaves and ability to live in a variety of growing conditions. Some hybrid willow trees will be added this year. The trees are about 6 feet tall when planted.

Similar plantings were done near egg-laying facilities in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Colletti said the plants used in those states vary, in an effort to determine the best trees and shrubs to use in different growing conditions.

In Iowa, a mobile emissions laboratory will begin recording ammonia, odor and particulate levels this spring, and continue periodically throughout 2005 and 2006. The mobile lab was developed by Steve Hoff, associate professor in Iowa State's agricultural and biosystems engineering department. Hoff is using mobile labs to collect data from swine facilities. Researchers in Pennsylvania and Delaware will conduct similar monitoring.

In addition to the air quality monitoring, researchers will examine the plant material in the buffers to evaluate how much dust is being captured. "Looking at the dust on the plants will help us determine how much odor emissions are being reduced," he said. Researchers in Pennsylvania and Delaware will send plant materials from their buffers to ISU for evaluation.

Also involved in this project is Gene Takle, a professor of agronomy and geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State. Once data on both emissions and dust have been collected in the spring, summer and fall seasons, Takle will do some computer modeling. "This will help us predict where gases and dust from the production facility are most likely to move," Colletti said. "Then we can determine the best location for these vegetative environmental buffers, plus the types of trees and plants to use."

Others involved are Jan Thompson, associate professor in the ISU natural resource ecology and management department, and John Tyndall, assistant professor, University of North Dakota. Tyndall was a post-doctoral research associate at Iowa State last year, where he helped get the project underway. He will be responsible for estimating the costs and benefits of the buffers. Thompson will analyze tree health and growth, plus any environmental effects on the soil.

Colletti said the Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Egg Council and individual producers in Iowa, Pennsylvania and Delaware have been supportive. "The industry is being proactive, advocating for the need to reduce odor and dust emissions from poultry and egg production facilities," he said. "They see this as a way to help sustain their industry. We see it as a way to bring science and producers together to solve a problem."


Joe Colletti, Natural Resource Ecology and Management, (515) 294-4912,
Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705,