by Pettus Read
Remember how hard most of us worked to make enough money to some day move to town and then worked even harder to make enough to move back? Today, that seems to be a very familiar obsession with many people and they are even bringing with them an even larger number of those who know absolutely nothing about the ways of rural homesteading. This pilgrimage to the country is happening everywhere and with it are coming problems that rural society has never dealt with before.
All of us who live out near the fence rows, cedar thickets, open fields and other rural geographics of the countryside have learned to live with some inconveniences; such as, no cable TV, dial-up computer usage, animals and livestock in the yard when not wanted, tractors running at all hours to get the farm work completed, and odors that only a farm animal can create when the winds blow from the west. We understand these things and have accepted most of them and tolerated the others, understanding that this is what rural life is all about.
However, there are those who have moved to the country from suburbia and built new homes close to farms, who are complaining about the smells that are a part of farm life. And, as summertime activities increase, I'm sure these folks will become real vocal about the aroma coming over their fence during a cookout on the barbie.
One odor that causes even the strongest suburbanite to raise a stink is the downwind perfume of a hog farm. To us true country folk, that aroma smells like money being made until the prices of hogs go down, but it is something we know is a part of living next to a hog farm. Hogs have never had the reputation of getting high marks in hygiene, but odors around farms with swine does happen.
But, there is hope on the horizon coming from horseradish root and hydrogen peroxide. In a recent news release compiled by Doug Dollemore for The American Chemical Society, it was reported that the horseradish/peroxide deodorizer was developed by Pennsylvania State University researchers and could help deodorize swine and other animal manure. Dollemore said, "It could perhaps put an end to a festering war of the noses."
The release reported that in response to complaints, the $40 billion swine industry, that employs 566,000 people nationwide, has tried - with mixed results - various solutions.
"The problem of odors from farm manure has never been solved. Yet it is a problem that needs to be addressed given the strain it puts on the increasing number of people living nearby," says Jerzy Dec, Ph.D., a PSU senior research associate and a co-author of the new study. "Our new approach is a very simple method that doesn't really take a lot of time, money or effort to do."
In the report it explains that in laboratory studies, Dec and his colleagues mixed horseradish root - purchased at a vegetable market - with hydrogen peroxide. Horseradish root contains large amounts of peroxidase, an enzyme, that when combined with peroxide, neutralizes phenols. Phenols are chemical compounds that are a common source of odors in manure.
Dollemore said in his release that a panel of six trained odor evaluators randomly sniffed treated and untreated manure samples. Now, I don't know about you, but that is one job they can have.
It seems the panelists found the samples treated with the horseradish mixture had odors about 50 percent less intense than untreated ones. Chemical analysis indicated the deodorizing effects lasted for at least 72 hours. In pilot-scale tests, the horseradish mixture effectively deodorized more than 50 gallons of hog manure, Dec says. Dollemore reported that larger tests are being planned.
The release said that Dec suspects the mixture also will work well on other animal waste. Although the PSU researchers used horseradish root, they believe other plants that are good sources of peroxidase such as potatoes, white radish roots and soybean hulls could be used.
It sounds like work is being done to make country life more enjoyable for everyone. Dollemore's release is just one example of agriculture and science working together for the betterment of all of us.
However, I still wonder who would apply and how you go about being trained as an odor evaluator. When they complain that their job really stinks, they must really mean it.