Trimethylamine emissions in animal husbandry
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.