April showers are beautiful when they bring out the tulips and daffodils, but unchecked, drainage water from heavy rainfall isn’t pretty. Implementing a drainage water management system can pay for itself with higher retained moisture and nutrient levels, resulting in improved yield.
According to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy plan, drainage water management can reduce nitrate-nitrogen loss through the tile lines by an average of 33 percent. Drainage water management systems:
- Help to control the amount and timing of water leaving agricultural fields through the tile lines
- Decrease soil leaching
- Increase soil carbon through reduced oxidation of soil organic matter
- Increase yield by an estimated 50 to 70 bushels per acre of corn and 20 to 25 bushels per acre of soybeans
Connecting a water level control structure to your drainage water outlet makes it possible to raise or lower the water table level in your field by adding riser boards to stem the flow of drainage water and reserve it for use by the growing crop. You decide the elevation of your water table dependent upon your crops’ needs. Prior to planting or harvesting, riser boards can be removed to ensure the soil is dry enough to run farm equipment in the field. After harvest, riser boards can be added to retain water and slow water runoff. The act of slowing the movement of water across your acres also helps prevent the displacement of soil, minerals, nutrients, and inputs that occurs with fast-moving runoff.
Drainage water management systems work most efficiently on crop ground with less than five percent slope and on fields that have been pattern-tiled rather than randomly tiled.
According to National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) estimates, the cost to install a drainage water management system runs $40 to $110 per acre; assuming that the crop ground is flat enough for one structure to control 20 acres. Funding programs, such as Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), are available through the NRCS and other entities.
Consult Sunderman Farm Management to determine which resources might be available for your crop acres and how managing drainage water could help retain soil, nutrients, and moisture for increased yield.