Blackland: Who, what and how much?

By Fred Afflerbach – Telegram Staff Writer

Research, innovation and employment–Three things the Blackland Research Center has provided in Temple for more than 100 years. The center, and a few satellite operations affiliated with it, provide about 90 jobs that range in annual salary from $27,000 to $138,000. Total annual salary: $2.74 million.

Center employees are split between:
«     Texas AgriLife — 52.
«     U.S. Department of Agriculture — 35.
«     Environmental Protection Agency — 1.

The center also brings in on average about $2.7 million in goods and services. This includes visiting scientists from the United States and across the globe who spend up to one year working with Blackland scientists.

Funding comes from two places:

«     Contracts and grants from such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense and the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board: 3.8 million in 2009.

«     General revenue from the Texas Legislature in 2009 totaled $1.2 million. But the impact Blackland has on the community cannot always be measured in dollars and cents. Workers at all agencies volunteer to conduct tours, host school events and make presentations with a focus on attracting school children to science.

Significant achievements

So, what are those scientists and researchers who use everything from computers to tractors actually doing?

«     AgriLife scientists have partnered with Fort Hood and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to help restore 67,000 acres on Fort Hood’s west range which reduced erosion into Lake Belton by 98 percent.

«     AgriLife scientists have developed and implemented a round-the-clock, web-based stream monitoring and warning system on Fort Hood to provide immediate warnings to soldiers at critical crossing points susceptible to flash-flooding.

«     AgriLife and USDA scientists developed and maintained a soil and water assessment tool and an erosion calculator that is widely accepted in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America. These tools are used to assess the impacts of agricultural and land management practices on water supply and quality and crop productivity.

«     AgriLife and USDA researchers plan to finish by December 2010 a report on current conservation practices applied to cropland in major U.S. watersheds. The report would shape future USDA conservation farm policy.

«     Working with other researchers, AgriLife scientists developed and implemented a livestock early warning system. The system uses cell phone technology in Mongolia and Africa to provide nomadic herders with current grazing conditions and market prices.

Source: Tom Gerik, Blackland Research Center director

–Reprinted with permission of Temple Daily Telegram

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