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Drainage Management to Improve Water Quality and Enhanced Agricultural Production. by. Don Pitts Agricultural Engineer NRCS USDA Champaign, IL. Why is drainage needed?. Due to high water tables, many soils in Illinois need drainage for economical crop production:

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drainage management to improve water quality and enhanced agricultural production

Drainage Management to Improve Water Quality and Enhanced Agricultural Production

by

Don Pitts

Agricultural Engineer

NRCS USDA

Champaign, IL

why is drainage needed
Why is drainage needed?
  • Due to high water tables, many soils in Illinois need drainage for economical crop production:
    • to insure trafficable field conditions
    • to minimize crop stress from excess water
tile drainage is water table management
Soil Surface

Water Table without Tile Drainage

Tile

Water Table with Tile Drainage

Tile Drainage is Water Table Management
what is drainage management
What is Drainage Management?
  • Allows for changing the elevation of drainage outlet
  • Raising the water table can reduce nitrate discharges to surface water
  • Raising the water table after planting can keep water and nutrients available for plant use during the growing season
water level control device
Raised Water Table

Ditch

Drain Water

Riser Boards (Adjustable)

Water Level Control Device

The water level control device is installed in the tile drain near the outlet and at various locations within the field depending on topography

Solid Pipe

drainage management
Soil Surface

Ditch

Root Zone

Ditch

Water Table with Drainage Management

Tile

Water Level Control Device

Drainage Management
drainage management parallel system and flat topography
Field Boundary

laterals

laterals

main

main

Water level control structure

Drainage Management(Parallel System and Flat Topography)
slide8
602

Zone of influence > 20 ac

600

Water Level Control Device

Solid Pipe

Drainage Management System

(gentle sloping topography)

Field Boundary

managed drainage
Crop Water

Uptake

Drain down

Raised Water Table

Lower Water

Table as Roots

Develop

Water Table

After Planting Allow

Water Table to Rise

Fallow

Season

Fallow Season

Harvest

Dec 31

Planting

Jan 1

Managed Drainage
production season drainage management considerations
Production Season Drainage Management Considerations
  • Principle 1. Only release water sufficient to allow for the soil to dry for field access with equipment and to keep the water table out of the root zone. Any water released in excess of these two requirement is water and nutrients lost from production.
production season drainage management considerations1
Production Season Drainage Management Considerations
  • Principle 2. Know the depth of the effective root zone. If the water table is allowed to rise into the root zone for a prolonged (this depends on temperature) period, oxygen will be depleted and plant stress will soon follow. This is the greatest risk in practicing drainage management.
potential benefits of drainage management
Potential Benefits of Drainage Management
  • Reduced Nitrate to Surface Water
    • inhibits nitrification
    • reduces the rate of mineralization
    • increases denitrification
    • altered hydrology results in less nitrate loss
  • Increased Crop Production
    • more Water available for ET
    • more N available for crop uptake
fate of nitrogen in tile drained agriculture
Fate of Nitrogen in Tile Drained Agriculture

Source: Zucker and Brown (1997)

site conditions for usda funding
Site Conditionsfor USDA Funding
  • Nitrate is a water quality concern in the watershed
  • Flat topography (slopes < 0.2%)
  • Intensive subsurface drainage system (pattern system)
  • No (minimal) impact to neighbors
  • Field size should be greater than 20 acres
golden rule of drainage
Golden Rule of Drainage
  • Only release the amount water necessary to insure trafficable conditions for field operations and to provide an aerated crop root zone
    • any drainage in excess of this rule likely carries away nitrate and water that is no longer available for crop uptake
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