Improved Drainage While Minimizing Water Quality Impacts

Greg Brenneman, Field Specialist-Ag Engineering, Southeast Area and Matt Helmers, Faculty, Ag & Biosystems Engineering

Problem Statement: 

Subsurface drainage has been used for many years to remove excess soil water and improve crop yields.  In the past several decades concern has increased about the amount of nitrate-nitrogen that is delivered to our surface waters from subsurface drains. There is a need for more research and education on what can be done with subsurface drainage systems to reduce environmental impacts and potentially increase yields.

Programmatic Response: 

To provide research information as well as provide educational programs, a Drainage Water Management Project along with a Tile Installation Field Days was planned for July of 2006.  This was made possible by donations of materials by 6 tile suppliers, tile installation by 5 drainage contractors and equipment and fuel supplied by 6 local dealers.  Monitoring of the drainage study is being done with an $88,000 NRCS grant for monitoring equipment, staff, and sample analysis.  The Drainage Water Management Project is comparing no drainage, normal depth/spacing, controlled drainage using normal depth/spacing, and a shallow depth/narrow spacing.  Also included is a demonstration wetland for reducing nitrate levels in the drainage water.  A field day for producers and ag businesses was held during one day of the tile installation.  Monitoring sumps and equipment have been installed and data collection is occurring.


Approximately 150 producers attended the field day on July 12, 2006 where they learned about drainage practices and the use of wetlands to reduce nitrates from subsurface drainage and saw various contractors installing tile.  In addition, 27 certified crop advisors received training in soil and water management and received a personal tour of the events occurring at the field day.

All ready one producer who attended the field day has asked for assistance in planning and laying out a 60 acre controlled drainage project which he installed in the fall of 2006.

April 18, 2007
160 - Natural Resources and Stewardship


Page last updated: April 25, 2007
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