Unraveling Livestock Odor: Innovative Techniques for VOC Characterization in Farm Effluents


In a bid to address the environmental and socio-economic challenges posed by livestock production, a team of researchers from the Animal Production Laboratory and Physico-Chemistry and Bioanalytical Laboratory at Agro Innovation International, Roullier World Innovation Center, Saint-Malo, France, has published a groundbreaking study titled "Characterization of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from Farms Effluents: Interest of HS-SPME-GC-MS Technique for Laboratory and Field Test" in the journal Atmosphere.

Livestock effluents contribute significantly to environmental issues such as pollution, fine particles, along with socio-economic concerns related to olfactory nuisance and animal welfare. The study focused on the characterization of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from farm effluents, particularly from cattle dung, slurry, and chicken droppings, and explored the potential of the headspace-solid phase microextraction coupled with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (HS-SPME-GC–MS) technique for both laboratory and field analyses.

In HS-SPME-GC–MS, the headspace above a sample is extracted using a solid-phase microextraction fiber, capturing volatile compounds without the need for extensive sample preparation. The extracted compounds are then separated and identified using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, allowing for a highly sensitive and selective characterization of volatile organic compounds.

The laboratory test involved measuring the VOC profiles of different farm effluents, including the influence of litter material on their release. The team also conducted a field test, comparing the VOC profiles of two manure pits subjected to different treatment methods to manage effluents effectively. Results from both tests revealed that HS-SPME-GC–MS proved to be a simple, fast, and economical technique for quantifying a wide spectrum of VOCs responsible for olfactory nuisances (1).

In total, 177 and 73 VOCs were identified in the laboratory and field tests, respectively. The versatility of the technique positions it as a valuable tool for monitoring olfactory nuisance markers and predicting the evolution of different effluent materials (1). The study highlighted the impact of various factors, including manure rearing and management systems, animal digestion systems, bedding materials, and environmental hygiene additives, on the production of VOCs in livestock effluents.

The research team's approach, utilizing HS-SPME-GC–MS, presents a promising avenue for comprehensive VOC profiling, enabling a better understanding of effluent emissions. By addressing the challenges associated with in-field analyses, the study opens new possibilities for efficient, reproducible, and automated laboratory analyses, paving the way for enhanced monitoring and management of livestock-related odorous emissions (1).

This study, published in Atmosphere, marks a significant step toward mitigating the environmental impact of livestock production, fostering sustainable agricultural practices and advancing our understanding of the complex dynamics of VOCs in farm effluents.

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(1) Joguet, N.; Jing, L.; Jamois, F.; Dumargue, P.Characterization of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from Farms Effluents: Interest of HS-SPME-GC–MS Technique for Laboratory and Field Test. Atmosphere 2023, 14 (6), 928. DOI: 10.3390/atmos14060928 

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