The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has approved more than $480,000 in grants to groups in Texas that will develop innovative technologies and solutions to environmental issues on working agricultural lands.

"These four grants will cover a broad spectrum of environmental concerns," said Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas. "The application of many of these unique projects has the potential to positively impact the economy and natural resources across the state."

NRCS's Conservation Innovation Grants, will be awarded to the following four organizations:

The Post Oak Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) in Bryan, Texas, will receive $75,000 for an alternative fuel program. The RC&D will field test varieties of cool season vegetable oil seeds that can be grown successfully to produce biodiesel for on-farm use.

The Railroad Commission of Texas will receive $75,000 for an energy tri-generation system on a central Texas dairy farm. The project will show that an innovative, distributed tri-generation system (combined cooling, heating, and power) on the farm will deliver increased energy efficiency; reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions; provide more reliable, cleaner power on demand; and result in greater grid independence for the operation.

The Texas Agricultural Experiment Station will receive $73,697 to demonstrate the effects of fire to control Opuntia (pricklypear) population growth and survival in mesquite and juniper degraded rangelands at the Sonora Experimental Research Station.

The Texas Water Resources Institute will receive two grants totaling $143,561. The first project is to demonstrate and evaluate the effect of stocking rate on pathogen transport from intensively managed irrigated pastures in order to develop guidance for landowners on restoring water quality. The second project will assemble an on-farm "manure to energy" conversion system. It will be used for on-site demonstrations that educate producers about the benefits of converting their operation's waste stream into useable energy to supplement or completely supply its energy needs.

In addition to the state-awarded grants, NRCS also offered grants through a national competition. The Wildlife Habitat Federation will receive $120,000 for demonstrating the conservation and producer benefits of converting pastures in south central Texas to native prairie grasses.

More detailed information about each project is available on the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) - State Component webpage.