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The Nose Knows

Animal Ag and Environment team members

The Nose Knows
By Jordan Barnes

MSU Extension has gotten a whiff of a technology that will help educators, farmers and rural residents understand odors better. Extension has trained 10 Animal Ag and Environment AoE (AAE) team members in the use of the Nasal Ranger® for detecting odor levels, both good and bad.

"It was strictly an in-service for those members of the MSUE AAE team who wanted to learn more about the Nasal Ranger," explained Jerry May, MSUE pork educator. "It doesn’t mean that we’re going to go out and evaluate odors, but now we’re more comfortable discussing the technology and under what conditions it is applicable and where it isn’t."

Group of Women using Nasal/Odor Rangers[By tuning a dial on the Odor Ranger to various odorous air intake levels, educators learned to adjust the ratio of odorous to odor-free air until the odor – whether good or bad – was first detected. However, because everyone’s perception is different, so is the level at which the odor is first detected.]

The 10 educators and researchers who participated in the training can now answer questions about the Nasal Ranger technology and better help farmers understand how odors are measured.

"Even with the Nasal Ranger, odor is a difficult sense to standardize because everyone has different sensitivities," said Jeannine Grobbel, MSUE beef educator. "Location of the odor, wind and air movement alter the odor intensity a lot."

According to Wendy Powers, director of Environmental Stewardship for Animal Agriculture at MSU, the training illustrated that evaluating an odor is not an easy process.

"Odor evaluators vary; odor conditions vary, and a farm visit is just a point in time rather than a complete picture," she said. "People who conduct odor assessments take the science very seriously. They have to consider everyday odors that really affect our perception, such as coffee, smoking, spicy foods, hand lotions and other fragrances."

Those considerations, and many others, mean that even with a tool such as the Nasal Ranger, odors are still subjective.

Odor Response Test "It’s not an exact science," Powers said. "A lot of data must be collected to develop a complete picture of how much odor comes from an operation. The best way to avoid problems is still to follow the generally accepted agricultural management practices."

That’s why Extension will not be using the Nasal Ranger to make odor regulation determinations. The training was for educational purposes only.

"Odor is a personal response," May said. "You have to be really careful when you start doing things and making interpretations with tools like the Nasal Ranger. It’s not a cut-and-dried determination."