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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Landscape Level Economic-Biophysical Simulation System
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Gerald Whittaker  Forage Seed and Cereals Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Corvallis, OR

The system is based on the hybrid genetic algorithm with parallel computation developed by Dr Whittaker (Whittaker, et al., 2009), and links computational modules for specification of economic, environmental and policy objectives to calculated the trade-offs among multiple objectives in the analysis of agricultural production in a watershed. The economics module contains several solvers for solution of DEA models and construction of environmental indices. The environmental effects module is modified version of the Soil and Watershed Assessment Tool (SWAT) modified to run as function in R for parallel execution in the algorithm. Dr. Whittaker also included unique features in the linked economic model which explicitly account for intermediate production of agricultural products, along with policy simulation capabilities that include government commodity and agro-environmental programs.


Data flow in the ARS economic bio-physical modeling system

  • Economic Module - Data envelopment Analysis (DEA); a nonparametric mathematical programming method that optimizes economic objectives including profit, efficiency, and valuation of non-market goods and pollutants.
  • Watershed Module - Soil and water assessment tool (SWAT); a landscape scale model that models the environmental effects of agricultural practices. A special version of
  • Index Module - A single variable that indicates water quality, constructed from measures of multiple water pollutants. A novel application of the Malquist quantitative index where the variables weights are endogenous to the calculation.

The simulation system is computationally intensive, and is implemented for parallel execution. The master version is installed on a Beowulf cluster at the National Forage Seed Production Research Center. The system is capable of elaborate agricultural environmental policy evaluation at very large scales. Expert knowledge is required, and each study requires extensive individual programming.  Therefore, the software is not available for download. If interested in pursuing analysis using this modeling/simulation system, please contact Gerald Whittaker (see below). Different versions of the system have been transferred and set up at Argonne  National Laboratory, U. Texas at San Antonio, Heidelberg U. in Ohio and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany

Analysis using the system requires a substantial commitment of time and resources. If you are interested, Dr. Whittaker will provide a sample version of the code and consulting and/or collaboration as appropriate.

Please contact Dr. Whittaker at

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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