Hydrogen Sulfide Release from Dairy Manure Storages Containing Gypsum Bedding

Why Look at Potential Connections Between Gypsum and Hydrogen Sulfide?

Gypsum, a recycled product from the waste streams of the manufacturing and construction industries, provides ideal bedding for livestock because it absorbs moisture keeping the animals dry, is non-abrasive, and discourages bacterial growth as it is inert and non-organic. Gypsum is calcium sulfate (CaSO4•2H2O) and provides a sulfur source material that potentially increases H2S production from the manure storage due to the high generation of H2S levels. The goal of this research project is to compare H2S concentrations among Pennsylvania dairy farms that use traditional bedding, gypsum bedding and gypsum bedding with an amendment. Related: Manure Storage Safety | 2013 Waste to Worth conference proceedings by these authors “Gypsum Bedding – Risks & Recommendations for Manure Handling

Information from this gypsum bedding project was recently featured on a pre-conference webcast More…


What did we do?

Ten farms were observed during 19 fall and spring agitation events. Portable multi-gas meters (models MX6, M40 and Tango, Industrial Scientific, Pittsburgh, PA) were place around the perimeter of each manure storage, 10 meters downwind of the storage perimeter and attached to the operator for the duration of the event to monitor exposure. Each meter recorded gas measurements every minute during the first hour of manure agitation. Wind speed, wind direction and air temperature were recorded every minute during these events using a weather station (Kestral Communicator model 4500, Nielsen-Kellerman, Birmingham, MI). Manure storage design and manure handling practices were characterized. Manure was characterized according to general chemistry (temperature, pH and oxidation-reduction potential) as well as submitted for a full nutrient analysis content including total nitrogen, sulfur, calcium, percent solids and phosphorus source coefficient.

What have we learned?

Figure 1 shows cumulative H2S concentrations versus gypsum application rate. Gypsum and non-gypsum farms represented by the diamonds show a significant increase in cumulative H2S concentrations with increasing gypsum application rate. The observations depicted by the squares represent farms that use Vital™ Breakdown (manufactured for Homestead Nutrition, New Holland, PA), a treatment reported to reduce H2S emissions. One of the farms observed, also pointed out in Figure 1 by the triangles, uses OK-1000 (manufactured by Pro-soil Ag Solutions, Hawkins, TX) as a manure additive. Though it appears that these manure additives reduce cumulative H2S concentrations, the reduction was not statistically significant because not enough observations were recorded to provide statistical power.

Movement of manure prior to the storage location appears to allow H2S to escape before entering long term storage (shown in Figure 1 as prior agitation), lowering H2S concentrations released during agitation of the manure storage. Wind flowing into proximate buildings inhibited the dissipation of H2S thereby increasing cumulative H2S concentrations as shown by the observation pointed out by the image of wind direction in Figure 1. Four observations of operator exposure (out of 19 observations including non-gypsum, gypsum and gypsum with additive) yielded H2S concentrations above 20 ppm (above the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) recommended exposure limit. Of the four operators above 20 ppm H2S, three were working over the rim of the storage, which increased risk of exposure. Downwind H2S concentrations above 20 ppm ten meters from storage occurred for eight out of the fourteen observations from farms that use gypsum, showing that children and animals within ten meters of the storage are at risk.

Figure 1. cumulative hydrogen sulfide concentrations for first 60 minutes of agitations versus gypsum application rate

Future Plans  

Bench scale work will be performed in hopes of finding a manure additive that reduces H2S production from farms that use gypsum. A new product (Dri Mat) formulated from its precursor, VitalTM Breakdown, will be mixed with manure and analyzed to determine the efficacy to reduced H2S emissions. Iron oxide, a by-product of acid mine drainage passive treatment lagoons will be one of the treatments for this work as well.


Hile, Michael, Ph. D. Candidate in Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at Penn State (PSU) mlh144@psu.edu

Dr. Eileen E. Fabian, Professor in ABE at PSU, Dr. Herschel A. Elliott, professor in ABE at PSU, Dr. Robin Brandt, Senior Lecturer in ABE at PSU, Dr. C. Alan Rotz, Agricultural Engineer at USDA-ARS and Dr. Ray Bryant, Soil Scientist at USDA-ARS.


This project would not have been possible without the support from Natural Resources Conservation Service’ (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, USA Gypsum and Industrial Scientific.

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