Managing Livestock Ammonia: A Volatile, Promiscuous Fugitive in the Atmosphere

Uploaded on Livestock production is the largest source of atmospheric ammonia, accounting for over 50 % and 40 % of the national and global inventories, respectively. At beef … Livestock production is the largest source of atmospheric ammonia, accounting for over 50 % and 40 % of the national and global inventories, respectively. At beef feedlots for example, 40 to 60 percent of the fed nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia. Once ammonia enters the atmosphere it can convert to an aerosol and travel long distances from the source. Most of this fugitive nitrogen is eventually deposited back to the ground when scavenged from the air by precipitation. Unfortunately, this unintentional nitrogen transport and fertilization is having a negative ecological impact on pristine ecosystems around the globe. Thus, it is not surprising that livestock ammonia is an area of growing public concern and regulatory debate. Perhaps nowhere is ammonia from livestock under greater scrutiny than along the Front Range of Colorado. Increased levels of atmospheric nitrogen deposition are having a negative impact on the ecology of Rocky Mountain National Park, a crown jewel of the National Park System. While studies suggest many different sources are contributing to nitrogen deposition in the park (e.g., urban, out of state sources), much attention has been directed to the beef feedlots and dairies that populate the plains just east of the mountains. The keynote address will briefly discuss ammonia emissions from livestock at global scales, with commentary on a new United Nations report "Our Nutrient World" that draws considerable attention to manure management and atmospheric ammonia. The remainder of the presentation will focus on Colorado's regional ammonia issue and what is being done to reduce ammonia loss from feedlots and dairies along the Front Range. New technologies for measuring ammonia and minimizing environmental impacts will be discussed.

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  • Although complicated, this system can be broken into 3 main processes: Emissions of SOx from power production, NH3 from catalytic conversion and NOx from fossil fuel combustion in urban areas and NH3 from agriculture in rural areas; the partitioning of oxidized versions of SOx and NOx in the forms of sulfuric acid and nitric acid during their reaction with NH3 into particle ion species, and the loss of these species through dry and wet deposition. This deposition can affect the nitrogen balance of ecosystems, causing degredation. and particles which are present at the surface can negatively affect human health. It is important to understand all three of these processes in order to understand the system as a whole.
  • Over the next four years (2009-2012), Weld County is growing rapidly with a projected population increase in the state at 13.8%, which will result in increased NOx emissions and possibly decreasing ammonia emissions as farmland is converted to urban use.


  • 1. Managing Livestock Ammonia: AVolatile, Promiscuous, Fugitive inthe Atmosphere?Jay HamDepartment of Soil and Crop SciencesColorado State University
  • 2. Acknowledgements Christina Williams, JoshuaStratton, Kira Shonkwiler Co-PIs and FundingAgencies CSU Department ofAtmospheric Science Members of RMNP Agric.Subcommittee Cooperators and IndustryPartners
  • 3. Outline The Global Nitrogen Cycle Regional Ammonia– N deposition in RockyMountain National Park– What is the contribution fromLivestock ? Farm Scale Solutions– Measurement, Models, &BMPs
  • 4. Part 1: The Global Nitrogen Cycleand Livestock Production―a small leak will sinka great ship‖- Benjamin Franklin
  • 5. A safe operating space for humanityRockström et al. 2009. Nature, 461, 472-475Galloway et al. 2008. Science, 320, !
  • 6. Erisman et al., 2008. Nature Geoscience
  • 7. ―Globally around 80% ofharvested nitrogen andphosphorus is consumedby livestock rather thandirectly by people,showing how globalnutrient supply andpollution are dominatedby humans‘ choice toconsume animalproducts.‖Sutton et al., 2013.United Nations EnvironmentProgramme (UNEP)
  • 8. Sutton et al., 2013. United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP)Recommendations from―Our Nutrient World‖
  • 9. promotion of the ‗ demitarian ‘option, which we define as ameal containing half theamount of meat or fishcompared with the normallocal amount …,The Barsac DeclarationDemitarian
  • 10. Global Nitrogen Fluxes andLivestock AmmoniaFluxes Tg N / yrNitrogen Fertilizer 120Nitrogen Fixation 50-70Crop and Grass Production 122Crop and Grass for LivestockProduction100 (81%)NH3 Emissions from Soils 15NH3 Emissions from Livestock 22 (59.5 %)Total NH3 from Agriculture 37Sutton et al., 2013. United NationsEnvironment Programme (UNEP)
  • 11. Got Beef ? Got Ammonia ! Retention of fednitrogen in feedlotcattle is typically 13% Most fed nitrogen isexcreted in the urineand feces as urea Up to 50% of fed Ncan be lost to theatmosphere as NH3
  • 12. Map Courtesy ofP.I. Coyne9.5 million head * 0.31-0.37 lbs N excreted /day= 2.7 to 3.5 million lbs N/day of excreted NIf 50% is lost to the atmosphere as NH31.4 to 1.7 million lbs. of ammonia/day
  • 13. Satellite Data of NH3 OVER NORTH AMERICA (2009)Data from Colette L. Heald, CSU
  • 14. Part 2: Nitrogen deposition inRocky Mountain National ParkA "perfect storm" is anexpression that describes an eventwhere a rare combination ofcircumstances will aggravate asituation drastically
  • 15. Rocky Mountain National Park
  • 16.
  • 17. NH3SOx NOxEmissionsGas-Particle Partitioning (aerosol formation)NH3H2SO4HNO3NH4+SO42-NO3-DepositionDry WetTransportNH3(Slide by Luke Schiferl)
  • 18.
  • 19. Wet Deposition Sampling
  • 20. Wet N Deposition in RMNPMorris et al., 2012. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/ARD/NRR—2012/562
  • 21.
  • 22. Colorado Ammonia SourcesRocky Mountain National Park Initiative ‐ Nitrogen Deposition ReductionContingency Plan. June 21, 2010
  • 23. NE Colorado CAFO Map
  • 24. Malm, W. C., Collett, Jr., J. L., et al. (2009) The Rocky Mountain Airborne Nitrogen andSulfur Study (RoMANS), final report to the National Park Service.strategy taken for apportioning variousaerosol species concentrations anddeposition to source emissions is aweight-of-evidence approach,comparing and contrasting results frommultiple analyses.
  • 25. Wet Nitrogen Deposition
  • 26. Part 3: Measurements, Modeling,and BMPs―What gets measured gets managed ―- Peter Drucker
  • 27. CSU Livestock NH3 Research Measurement of NH3Emissions and RegionalConc. Patterns Development ofmanagement BMPs Modeling and SoftwareTools New TechnologyFunding Sources:USDA, EPA, NRCS, and NSF
  • 28. Best Management Practices to ReduceLivestock Ammonia Impacts Feed Management Change Manure Management Meteorological WarningSystems NH3 MeasurementTechnology
  • 29. Blue – 13.5% CPRed – OscillatingGreen – 11.6% CPEffect of Reduced Crude Protein Dieton Pen Surface NH3 EmissionsDietGalles K., Ham J., Westover E., Stratton J., Wagner J., Engle T., Bryant T.C.2011. Influence of Reduced Nitrogen Diets on Ammonia Emissions from CattleFeedlot Pens. Atmosphere. 2(4):655-670.
  • 30. New Measurement Technology Identification of NH3―Hot Spots‖ Tracking and TrendDetection of NH3emissions Information for DecisionMaking Meeting futureregulatory requirements
  • 31. Robotics for Managing Air Emissions of Ammonia atLivestock OperationsHam et al., 2012.National Robotics Initiative (NSF/USDA-NIFA)Goal: Develop a robotic air-quality management system for dairies andcattle feedlots that will help managers reduce ammonia emissionsDesign new low-cost Laser forreal-time NH3 monitoringLaser Det.Sample GasDevelop a wirelessNH3 sensor networkDesign weatherforecast retrievalsystem to predict NH3emissions andtransport in advance.
  • 32. Conditional Passive Samplers
  • 33. Conditional Passive Samplers``Linear ActcuatorAcrylic TubeCapSpacerVertical AdapterRadiello DiffusiveSamplerFoamAcrylic DiscHall Effect SensorControl CableSpacerClevisClevisPlungerMagnetHall Effect CableArduino
  • 34. Northern Colorado Dairy
  • 35. Beef Feedlot NH3Concentrations
  • 36.
  • 37.
  • 38. Conclusions Livestock NH3 is becominga dominant global andregional environmentalissue – and linkagesbetween N pollution,livestock, and food choicewill gain more attentionover time.Contact Information:; 970-491-4112
  • 39. Conclusions The Front Range ofColorado and RMNP hasemerged as a test case forhow science, policy, andcooperation amongstakeholders can address aregional NH3 issue.Contact Information:; 970-491-4112
  • 40. Conclusions New measurementtechnologies, IoT, andM2M communications willlikely greatly help livestockmanagers reducer NH3losses.Contact Information:; 970-491-4112
  • 41. Questions ?Contact Information:; 970-491-4112