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Air Quality

Aerial view of farmstead with windbreaks.The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service helps private landowners conserve our natural resources, and air resources are among those.  Our Air Quality resource concerns can be broadly classified into four air quality and atmospheric change issues:   

  • Particulate Matter
  • Ozone Precursors
  • Odor
  • Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration

For each of these major issues the latest science and the most relevant technical tools are being applied so that NRCS personnel, cooperators and landowners can make the best decisions regarding air resources.

Particulate Matter—A complex mixture of solid particles or liquid droplets that are suspended int he air. These can enter the air directly (dust is an example), or be formed in the atmosphere through condensation or chemical reactions of certain pollutants, such as oxides of nitrogen, ammonia and volatile organic compounds. Environmental concerns are health issues, visibility concerns, and deposition.

Ozone Precursors—Compounds that lead to the formation of ozone. These are oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They react in the presence of sunlight to form ozone, which is a component of smog (along with particulates).

Odors—Very simply, compounds that are noticeable to the human sense of smell. From an air quality standpoint we are concerned with those odors that are objectionable to humans.

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)—Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. There are three prinipal GHGs of concern for agriculture: carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4).