Minnesota researchers are trying to figure out the source of a greyish-brown foam forming on top of manure pits that’s causing hog farms in the Midwest to unexpectedly explode (via Gawker). Kali Dingman of The Minnesota Daily reports that farmers first noticed the issue in 2009 when incidents of pit foaming resulted in barn explosions and killed thousands of pigs.
The foam, which can reach up to 4-feet-high, captures methane which becomes explosive when ignited by anything from an electric spark to a cigarette.
One researcher told The Minnesota Daily that a farmer could spend up to $1 million cleaning up after an explosion, which includes getting rid of dead pigs.
Pork production is big business in Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Pork Board, the state ranks third in the nation in the number of hogs its farmers’ raise. In 2010, hog sales contributed $5.9 billion to Minnesota’s economy.
Scientists are still struggling to figure out the root cause of the phenomenon, but think it could be linked to a new species of bacteria that forms in the manure pits. The team is currently focusing on ways to curb the foam’s growth.
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