Newswise — As the population continues to move beyond urban boundaries and into rural communities, farm-related odors are increasingly becoming a point of contention between new residents and farmers raising livestock. Such conflicts can have significant economic repercussions if farmers are forced to relocate or reduce production in order to limit objections to odors.

Now, a new patent to be issued to Philadelphia's Monell Chemical Senses Center utilizes a unique method to reduce animal waste malodors, thereby helping farmers and their animals to co-exist peacefully with their new neighbors.

The method was developed by Monell analytical organic chemist George Preti, PhD and olfactory neuroscientist Charles Wysocki, PhD, in response to a request for help from Pennsylvania state officials.

Preti comments, "Because we are highly experienced in analyzing, describing and quantifying biological odors, state officials turned to Monell for research ideas to address odor management. With a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, our research team sought ways to increase understanding of the problem with a goal of finding ways to design amelioration strategies."

The method takes advantage of a process known as 'olfactory cross adaptation' to reduce detection of unpleasant odors. Olfactory adaptation refers to the loss of sensitivity to an odor when one is constantly exposed to an odor. Olfactory cross-adaptation occurs when the nose adapts to one odor and then also becomes less sensitive to a second odor that is perceptually or structurally different from the first.

Working systematically, the research team first quantified the extent of the odor problem both in the laboratory and under field conditions using state-of-the-art sensory analysis techniques. Next they used analytical-organic chemistry methods to identify the chemicals responsible for malodors from farm animal waste.

The researchers then used cross-adaptation to counteract the odors, demonstrating that negative perception of these odors is reduced by treating animal waste with cross-adapting chemicals that are not malodorous. Additional effectiveness can be achieved by combining cross-adapting agents with odor-reducing agents.

Preti explains, "The cross-adapting agent is a pleasant-smelling compound (the ethylester of 3-methyl-2-octenoic acid) used at low concentrations. It has a demonstrated ability to reduce the intensity and unpleasantness of organic acids and sulfur-containing malodorants: both of these are part of the malodor bouquet found in farm manures." "Cross-adaptation is an effective method to inhibit malodors from farm animals," comments Wysocki. "Because agriculture is one of Pennsylvania's leading industries, it is an economic imperative to come up with effective methods to decrease conflicts over animal waste odors as residential development continues to increase in rural communities. Agricultural practitioners can now utilize the patented approach to reduce the impact of odors on downwind neighbors. Potentially, this could save millions of dollars in costs related to litigation."

Odors from domestic animals and from human portable waste facilities and outhouses can also be treated with cross-adapting agents.

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