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Proposal To Monitor Water Quality Wins Top Award

By Don Comis
September 29, 2004

A research proposal to use a computer model to estimate soil and water quality and wildlife habitats has won the Agricultural Research Service's T.W. Edminster Research Associate Award for 2005.

ARS agricultural engineer Jeffrey G. Arnold has won the award for his proposal to use his Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) computer model to estimate soil and water quality and wildlife habitat benefits as part of a national assessment of 2002 Farm Bill programs. Congress mandated the five-year assessment, called the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP).

Arnold's was the top-ranked proposal for the 2005 ARS Postdoctoral Research Associate Program. Arnold will receive $120,000 in funding over two years to support a postdoctoral scientist to use SWAT in collaboration with ARS scientists responsible for modeling 12 CEAP "benchmark" watersheds.

Arnold developed the SWAT model along with fellow engineer Kevin W. King and agronomist James R. Kiniry at the ARS Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, Texas. King has since transferred to the ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit in Columbus, Ohio, where he will use SWAT to document conservation benefits on the nearby Upper Big Walnut Creek watershed. The watershed research and monitoring will provide more detailed information and help refine the model for use with the national assessment.

ARS officials evaluated 450 proposals and selected 49 others to each receive $100,000 in funding over two years for research to help solve agricultural, nutritional and environmental problems. Other winning proposals include a human nutrition study on the effects of a sensible high-protein weight loss plan on the risk of osteoporosis, the development of a model for the study of resistance to soybean rust disease before it possibly enters the United States, and a determination of the effects of high CO2 levels on soil microbes and carbon storage.