Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 11, issue 18
Biogeosciences, 11, 5073–5085, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-11-5073-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 11, 5073–5085, 2014
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-11-5073-2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 19 Sep 2014

Research article | 19 Sep 2014

Trimethylamine emissions in animal husbandry

J. Sintermann1, S. Schallhart2, M. Kajos2, M. Jocher1, A. Bracher3, A. Münger3, D. Johnson4, A. Neftel1, and T. Ruuskanen2 J. Sintermann et al.
  • 1Agroscope ISS, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 3Agroscope ILS, Posieux, Switzerland
  • 4SA Pathology, Adelaide, Australia

Abstract. Degradation of plant material by animals is an important transformation pathway in the nitrogen (N) cycle. During the involved processes, volatile reduced alkaline nitrogen compounds, mainly ammonia (NH3) and aliphatic amines such as trimethylamine (TMA), are formed. Today, animal husbandry is estimated to constitute a main source of aliphatic amines in the atmosphere with TMA being the main emitted compound. Here, we show how the interaction between faeces and urine in animal production systems provides the primary source for agricultural TMA emissions. Excreted urine contains large quantities of urea and TMA-N-oxide, which are transformed into NH3 and TMA, respectively, via enzymatic processes provided by microbes present in faeces. TMA emissions from areas polluted with urine–faeces mixtures are on average of the order of 10 to 50 nmol m−2s−1. Released amines promote secondary aerosol particle formation in the agricultural emission plume. The atmospheric lifetime of TMA, which was estimated to be of the order of 30 to 1000 s, is determined by the condensation onto aerosol particles.

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