A process-based emission model of volatile organic compounds from silage sources on farms

H. F. Bonifacio, C. A. Rotz, S. D. Hafner, F. Montes, M. Cohen, F. M. Mitloehner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Silage on dairy farms can emit large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a precursor in the formation of tropospheric ozone. Because of the challenges associated with direct measurements, process-based modeling is another approach for estimating emissions of air pollutants from sources such as those from dairy farms. A process-based model for predicting VOC emissions from silage was developed and incorporated into the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM, v. 4.3), a whole-farm simulation of crop, dairy, and beef production systems. The performance of the IFSM silage VOC emission model was evaluated using ethanol and methanol emissions measured from conventional silage piles (CSP), silage bags (SB), total mixed rations (TMR), and loose corn silage (LCS) at a commercial dairy farm in central California. With transport coefficients for ethanol refined using experimental data from our previous studies, the model performed well in simulating ethanol emission from CSP, TMR, and LCS; its lower performance for SB could be attributed to possible changes in face conditions of SB after silage removal that are not represented in the current model. For methanol emission, lack of experimental data for refinement likely caused the underprediction for CSP and SB whereas the overprediction observed for TMR can be explained as uncertainty in measurements. Despite these limitations, the model is a valuable tool for comparing silage management options and evaluating their relative effects on the overall performance, economics, and environmental impacts of farm production. As a component of IFSM, the silage VOC emission model was used to simulate a representative dairy farm in central California. The simulation showed most silage VOC emissions were from feed lying in feed lanes and not from the exposed face of silage storages. This suggests that mitigation efforts, particularly in areas prone to ozone non-attainment status, should focus on reducing emissions during feeding. For the simulated dairy farm, a reduction of around 30% was found if cows were housed and fed in a barn rather than in an open lot, and 23% if feeds were delivered as four feedings per day rather than as one. Reducing the exposed face of storage can also be useful. Simulated use of silage bags resulted in 90% and 18% reductions in emissions from the storage face and whole farm, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-97
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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