LUBBOCK - The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently honored the “Air Quality: Reducing Emissions from Cattle Feedlots and Dairies” research team with the state’s highest environmental honors for the 2010 Texas Environmental Excellence Award.

The Texas Environmental Excellence Award is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to environmental projects that demonstrate excellence in resource conservation, water reduction and pollution prevention.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is one of five agencies that provided support for the research team that worked together in applying extensive research to develop science-based emission factors and cost-effective abatement technologies for the feedlot and dairy industry.

Mickey Black, NRCS assistant state conservationist in the High Plains area, said, “This air quality research project for NRCS in Texas has formed the basis for the ‘Beef Air Quality Program’ through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).”

“This is an outstanding award and well-deserved recognition for research team coordinator Dr. John Sweeten, resident director for research at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Amarillo and the project research team,” Black said. “Some of the research is currently being utilized in the NRCS Beef EQIP Air Quality Emphasis with beef feedyards in Texas.”

Greg Sokora, NRCS Zone Engineer for the High Plains Region, and Greg Zwicke, Air Quality Engineer with the USDA-NRCS Tech Center in Portland, Ore., served in a consultative capacity on the advisory board for the research team.

“Texas NRCS is proud to be a member of the Industry Advisory Committee for this project, and through this cooperative effort, NRCS has been able to request specific research objectives to enhance the delivery of the USDA-NRCS technical assistance to animal feeding operations in Texas,” Sokora said.

“The scientific innovation and leadership this team has brought to develop better environmental practices and the implementation of new processes that will improve air quality is something that benefits all Texans,” he said. “We applaud their successes in leading the cattle feedlot and dairy industry toward a new, cleaner future.”

The field and laboratory research is aimed at accurately determining emissions of dust/particulate matter, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, odor and volatile organic compounds from cattle feedlots, and developing technologies to mitigate such emissions.

In a letter supporting the project, Don Gohmert, state conservationist of the Texas NRCS, said, “Our partnership with this project is an excellent example of technology transfer by taking outstanding, but practical environmental research and applying it on the land to address environmental resource concerns for agricultural industries. The research developed by this project has allowed Texas beef feedyards to be proactive in treating their air quality resource concerns on their animal feeding operations.”

According to Sokora, examples of the project's success in the feedyards include:

-- The research team’s data has been used by the NRCS to custom design 15 dust-control sprinkler systems in beef feedyards on the High Plains of Texas. The sprinkler systems were installed through the Beef EQIP program.

-- NRCS has developed site-specific Manure Harveting Management plans using field and laboratory research to determine emissions of dust/particulate matter. More than 50 High Plains feedyards have implemented management plans that require feedyards to clean cattle pens frequently to control dust emissions.