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Harmonizing Everglades Restoration With South Florida Agriculture

By Alfredo Flores
August 21, 2003

New computer models to improve water management in agricultural areas near the Everglades are being developed and tested by Agricultural Research Service scientists as part of a program to restore the Everglades.

More than 23,000 people are directly involved with the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) under way in south Florida. One of the major contributors to this restoration initiative is research hydrologist M. Reza Savabi, who leads the ARS Everglades Agro-Hydrology Project at the agency's Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Fla.

Supported by both federal and state funding, CERP is now in its third year, with the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers playing major roles in the effort. Savabi collaborates with these agencies, as well as with the University of Florida, Florida International University, the University of Miami, Florida A&M University-Tallahassee, the U.S. Geological Survey and the South Dade Soil and Water Conservation District. Cooperators provide agricultural-hydrology data at their respective locations.

Savabi and colleagues at the Miami lab are providing knowledge and technology needed to improve water management on agricultural areas while maintaining or improving environmental quality in south Florida. They're developing a model--called the Everglades Agro-Hydrology Model, or EAGHM--to simulate soil tillage, irrigation and crop growth. The model is aimed at helping farmers weigh alternative management or cropping systems to cope with hydrologic changes that may result from implementation of the Everglades restoration plan.

Savabi has received help with this very detailed model from other hydrologists and modelers, including ARS scientists from West Lafayette, Ind.; Tifton, Ga.; and Temple, Texas. EAGHM is being tested in Miami-Dade County, where farmers provide information on when they plant, fertilize and perform other agronomic tasks. Once calibrated, it will be used on farms in south Florida, to evaluate the possible impact of CERP implementation on sustainability of agriculture and water quantity and quality.

Read more about the CERP initiative in the August issue of Agricultural Research.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's principal scientific research agency.