Penn State webinar looks at links between farm odors, air pollution

March 06, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Farmers, environmentalists and others seeking to grasp the implications of new Pennsylvania regulations to limit livestock farm odors can participate in a free, Web-based seminar, sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and several Pennsylvania environmental agencies.

An online primer on air quality and odor issues for Pennsylvania animal agriculture is the focus of the eighth installment of "Manure Du Jour: Serving
Pennsylvania's Best Practices on Animal Agriculture, Water, and Air Quality," set for noon on Wednesday, March 11. Tackling farm-odor issues will be an expert panel that includes Eileen Wheeler, Penn State professor of agricultural engineering, and Robin Brandt, lecturer in Penn State's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Joining them will be Karl Dymond, odor management program coordinator with the State Conservation Commission.

Wheeler explains that the topic of farm air quality can be complicated. While odors from animal wastes tend to get the most attention, she notes, greenhouse gases produced by the same waste actually may play a more critical role in local and regional air pollution.

"We have local issues that include odor and the nuisance that presents, and we also have some emissions issues," she says. "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is more concerned with reducing major gases that contribute to global or regional air-pollution problems. An odor from hog waste can have up to 100 identifiable compounds -- some of them very odorous even in miniscule quantities. Methane and carbon dioxide don't have an odor, but they're greenhouse gases that can be major components of emissions from animal waste, which we're trying to reduce. Ammonia does have an odor, but it's because of its potential to harm the environment that we'd like to see it reduced."

The 'webinar' coincides with the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service's recent announcement that Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds are available to eligible Pennsylvania producers for installing conservation practices that reduce both air emissions and odors.

"Air Quality – The Issues" is the eighth installment in a 13-part lunchtime series that runs through April 16, addressing livestock-specific considerations, research findings, and practices. The webinar series brings together experts from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and Penn State Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Michigan State University and the Pennsylvania Agricultural Ombudsman program.

"Manure Du Jour" is an educational program designed for practitioners in the County Conservation District and extension offices, as well as for field personnel in the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the State Conservation Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The weekly offerings also are open to producers, agencies, agribusinesses, consultants and the general public. A weekly online question-and-answer period follows the speaker presentations, enabling the participants to interact with the featured experts. Previous weeks' webinars are available online, accessible 24 hours a day.

Details for accessing the webinar are found at the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center Web site at or by visiting To access the webinar, participants will need a computer with high-speed internet connection. Those who do not have access are encouraged to contact their county Penn State Cooperative Extension office.

For more information about the lunchtime webinar series, contact Kristen Saacke Blunk at (814) 863-8756 or by e-mail at or Anna Marie Nachman by e-mail at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009