Terry A. Howell was named as the new laboratory director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation and Production Research Laboratory at Bushland, Texas effective Jan. 1, according to Dan Upchurch, director of the Southern Plains Area of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service.

Howell is the sixth laboratory director since 1938, succeeding Dr. R.N. Clark who retired on Aug. 1, 2009.  Upchurch expressed gratitude to Howell for his service as acting director in this interim period.

 Howell has served as the research leader of the Soil and Water Management Research Unit at the laboratory since late 1993. He has provided leadership to the unit and laboratory in maintaining and promoting an outstanding record of accomplishment, in fostering a strong team approach and in developing and strengthening the unit and laboratory ties to the agricultural industry, irrigation industry, and both state and other ARS cooperating locations.

Howell will remain as the research leader for the Soil and Water Management Research Unit comprising eight other research scientists and 11 full-time support staff.

Howell, a research agricultural engineer, has been at the research laboratory since 1983 and with the USDA-ARS since 1979.  Previously, he taught agricultural engineering at New Mexico State University and Texas A&M University for five years. 

His research focus has been on methods of measuring evapotranspiration (ET) using weighing lysimeters, soil water balance and micrometeorological methods; the use of sprinkler, drip and subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) plot systems to determine crop growth and yield response to irrigation and deficit irrigations; and simulation modeling of crop growth, yield andsoil water balance. 

His research goals are to improve ET estimation, to improve irrigation effectiveness, and to evaluate and develop advanced irrigation technologies suitable to this region as well as an effective dryland system to use limited precipitation resources effectively.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering in 1969, his master’s degree in 1970 and doctorate in 1974, all from Texas A&M University. Prior to his transfer to Bushland in 1983, Howell was an agricultural engineer with USDA-ARS in Fresno, Calif., working on water management and irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley.

At Bushland, the Soil and Water Management Research Unit’s major focus is on increased crop water productivity and improved water quality while preserving the regional soil and water resources in both irrigated and dryland cropping systems.

This is being accomplished through the development of improved irrigation systems and management technologies; tillage/residue management practices; and information technologies using remote sensing.

The unit is also working to enhance rural economic sustainability through improved technologies to better utilize the available precipitation, to enhance recharge and to reduce ground water depletion in the Ogallala Aquifer region. 

The laboratory goals include research to conserve and sustain the soil and water resources of this region, to use water effectively in the Southern High Plains and to address air quality, manure management and renewable energy research.

In 2008, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers awarded Howell with the John Deere Gold Medal for distinguished achievement in the application of science and art to the soil and the Dale F. Heermann Sprinkler Irrigation Award for leadership and promotion of efficient sprinkler irrigation. 

Howell is a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (1992), American Society of Agronomy (1999), Soil Science of America (2007) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (2008). 

Other distinguished awards include the Irrigation Association’s Person of the Year in 1995, Royce J. Tipton Award (ASCE) in 1998, Texas A&M University Agriculture Program Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research (1999, team award), Hancor Soil and Water Engineering Award (ASABE) (2000), USDA-ARS Technology Award (team award, 1999) and the USDA-ARS Senior Scientist of the Year, Southern Plains Area (2000).