Scientists have suggested that planting just three rows of trees around poultry farms can cut nuisance emissions of dust, ammonia, and odors from poultry houses.
As part of a research by scientists from the University of Delaware in the US, the findings indicate that some of the emissions can almost be cut by half.
According to George W. Malone from the University of Delaware, trees also provide farms with the added benefit of reducing energy consumption.
His research on giving trees a new role in the poultry industry began in 2000, when residents near farms on the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia complained about dust and odors from poultry houses that had recently switched to new ventilation systems.
In the new report, Malone's team suggested that planting vegetation could reduce ammonia and particulates that may degrade surrounding air and water quality.
"We were aware of the concerns locally," said Malone. "We looked at what we could do to address them and the whole area of air quality as it relates to the emission of ammonia from poultry houses," he added.
In response, they proposed planting trees to serve as a vegetative filter that could capture emissions from these family farms, which individually can house an average of 75,000 chickens.
In a six-year study, Malone and his team found that a three-row plot of trees of various species and sizes reduced total dust by 56 percent, ammonia 53 percent, and odor 18 percent.
The approach is being adopted around the Delmarva.
The research showed that as vegetative "filters," not all trees are created equal.
"We've certainly been on a learning curve since 2001 about the different plant materials suitable for this practice. We typically recommend the first row nearest the fans to be either a deciduous tree or a tree with a waxy leaf surface and the other two rows be an evergreen," said Malone.
According to Malone, certain species of trees can grow eight to 10 feet per year, which allows for a quick start in creating a buffer.
"One initial concern was that it takes years for trees to grow to become effective in filtering out poultry house emissions, but that's not necessarily the case," he said.
Trees reduce poultry house emissions by capturing dust, ammonia and odors in their leaves. They also aid in dispersion of emissions, which reduces the impact on neighbors.
The living filter system also has other benefits as it conserves energy by increasing shade and cooling in the summer and acts as a buffer to reduce heating costs in the winter.
Not only do trees enhance air quality, they also improve the water quality around poultry farms because they can filter pollutants from soil and groundwater.