A nationwide project led by Colorado State University researchers aims to help livestock producers reduce airborne emissions that could degrade environmental health.
Agriculture's airborne emissions – whether dust, odor, methane or ammonia – often are the source of controversy when these byproducts provoke tension between rural and urban neighbors, or when they are eyed as possible environmental threats.
In Colorado, work on the CSU research project is significant, scientists believe, in light of concerns that ammonia emissions from livestock operations are contributing to nitrogen deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
"Managing emissions from livestock operations is an environmentally sound practice and a financially sound practice," says Shawn Archibeque (cq), assistant professor of animal sciences who leads the project. "That's because nutrients emitted into the environment are nutrients that were not captured in a salable product, such as beef, pork, milk, eggs or poultry."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service Grant program is funding the study.
CSU faculty members in the College of Agricultural Sciences will use the findings to refine a straightforward online tool called the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool.
It allows producers to assess air quality surrounding their operations, to pinpoint emissions types and sources, and to consider the costs and benefits of emission-control strategies.
Archibeque and his collaborators have developed the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool over the last four years.
The project's first phase drew nearly $1 million in funding, with more than $440,000 awarded by USDA and some $550,000 from partnering organizations.
The effort is considered important because it provides livestock producers with strategies to proactively address air quality, says Bill Hammerich, chief executive of the Colorado Livestock Association, which donated $25,000 to initiate the project, and members representing the dairy and cattle-feeding sectors are helping to test the tool.