Measuring Dust on Feedlots
September 15, 2003
If you need to borrow a kitchen blender, make sure you don't use
the one belonging to Agricultural Research
Service's Daniel N. Miller. That's because he uses his slightly modified
blender to pulverize soil from cattle feedlots so he can measure the dust
Miller is a microbiologist at ARS' Roman L. Hruska
U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in
Clay Center, Neb. He and ARS agricultural engineer Bryan L. Woodbury are trying
to determine the amount of dust produced in various sections of feedlots and
why significant differences exist.
Dust can be inhaled into the lungs of both humans and animals
and thus cause respiratory problems. Dust is also a carrier for odors, as well
as ammonia and microorganisms.
The soil is first dried to remove excess moisture and then
screened through a sieve. After the scientists put the soil sample into the
blender, they turn it on for a series of blends totaling one minute. They
collect the dust on a round filter that looks similar to fiberglass insulation.
They've verified that areas with a lot of moisturewhich
usually comes from rain, urine or water a farmer addshave less dust.
They've also gained new insights into the role of organic matter in dust
production. Areas with greater amounts of dried manure actually needed more
moisture to control dust than low-manure areas. Furthermore, they found that
even small increases in moisture transformed dust-producing soil into soil that
didn't produce dust.
In the future, the researchers want to look at other
characteristics of dust, such as odor compounds bound to dust particles. They
also want to look at other types of dust control besides adding sprinklers to
This research is reported in the September/October issue of the
Journal of Environmental
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.