Keeping phosphorus out of waterways

Keeping phosphorus out of waterways

Phosphorus removal structures trap the nutrient before it reaches waterways.

Iowa Drainage School 2018

Iowa Drainage School 2018

Staying up to date with subsurface drainage.

Innovation revisited

Innovation revisited

I previously wrote an article about barriers to adoption of innovative drainage practices.

Digging into drones

Digging into drones

Contractors can still benefit from the technology without buying a drone for themselves.

Joining forces: gaining support for drainage

Joining forces: gaining support for drainage

Gaining community support for agricultural drainage improvement projects, one landowner at a time.

The St. Croix River Association (SCRA) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from Compeer Financial for the Farm to Faucet education pilot. This new program will lead students to explore the connections between agriculture and watershed health.
Landowners across the Canadian province say they’re facing a situation where provincial regulators have been issuing drainage licences, often to local governments, without fully considering their downstream impact.
Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine asked legislators to set aside $900 million to fund long-term investments in the health of Ohio’s waterways and Lake Erie, which perennially battles toxic algal blooms that five years ago poisoned the city’s water supply.
The provincial government of Saskatchewan will invest $5 million in the Saskatchewan Conservation and Development Association to advance farm water management in the Canadian prairie province. 
The state announced programs to help northwest Ohio farmers plant year-round vegetation, buy equipment, test soil, and build storage facilities to reduce erosion and fertilizer runoff that feeds chronic algal growth on Lake Erie.
In a special election at the end of February, the majority of citizens of Toledo, OH voted to provide extra protections for Lake Erie through the newly established Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The Bill would allow any citizen to sue anyone who ‘causes harm’ to the lake’s ecosystem.
Hundreds of ag drainage wells built in the early 1900s have been successfully closed with help from the Agricultural Drainage Well Water Quality Assistance fund. The Fund provides a 75 percent cost-share for individual or groups of farmers in drainage districts.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging states to develop water quality trading programs to tackle nutrient pollution, which has become an increasingly visible issue in farm country. Practices such as nutrient and sediment reduction, and more landscape-scale projects, are also being considered.
On December 20, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law. The Nature Conservancy, an advocacy group for land and water conservation, break down what this law means for conservation practices. The bill will support and fund policies that will help farmers, ranchers and forest owners become more sustainable and productive.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service honored the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture with the 2018 State Conservationists Partnership Award, for its research measuring nutrient loss in the Mississippi River Basin and training to help farmers irrigate crops and slow groundwater draws.
United South Central (USC), a high school in Wells, Minnesota, may have to deal with their water retention issue on their own after a special school board meeting yielded minimal results in talking with neighboring farmers with regard to sharing drainage tile.
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to scale back the number of U.S waterways that receive federal protection, pleasing farmers but upsetting ecology-focused groups.
Persistent cold, snow and a deeper frost line in the soil is delaying winter, spring tiling activity in the Corn Belt. Joel Sandeno, Agri-Tile Inc., says the work season for tiling farm fields has been shortened this winter and doesn’t look good for spring.
Drainage contractors are completing erosion and sediment control certification training in order to stay up to date with best environmental practices. Here are some key takeaways from a recent training session and more information on the certification.
Installing a blind inlet filters water through layers of soil and rock before it enters the tile system, reducing the amount of nutrients, pesticides, and sediment that can affect water quality.
Continuing education is part of any career – including a drainage contractor’s. Agricultural drainage systems are complex. Contractors must pay attention to local laws, soil types, slope, environmental considerations and size, depth and spacing of tile.
I previously wrote an article about barriers to adoption of innovative drainage practices. Those barriers included risk aversion, practices of adjacent landowners, economics and local conditions.
Drones need no introduction. Stories about drones hover on technology websites and never seem to go out of style. But what value does this former “next big thing” bring to the drainage industry?
Roger and Louise Van Ersvelde are passionate about conservation and land stewardship on their farm east of Brooklyn in Poweshiek County, IA.
No official background in drainage or excavating stopped the now 37-year-old Bourke Sprague from building his company, Sprague Excavating LLC, based in Union County, KY.
Don Hodgman was lead foreman for a drainage contractor in West Concord when he set out on his own in 1982.
Mark Morreim, president of Morreim Drainage Inc., has always been involved with farming. He was driving tractors by the time he was 12, raised livestock, and eventually started working for a family-owned company that farmed, sold seed corn and had a commercial fertilizer and custom chemical service.
In this time of increasing scrutiny of tile outflow and nutrient loss, there remains a lack of data to make determinations about best management practices in terms of fertilization rates and timing, as well as factors such as natural mineralization rates.
When long-time friends Sid Boeve and Tyler Russell started Bo-Russ Contracting in Manitoba in 2007, it was just a matter of time before installing tile drainage became one of their services.
An Iowa Water Quality Initiative pro­­ject in Sioux County has federal funding available that landowners and farm operators may apply for.
The Farm Services Agency (FSA) and the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) collaborated to quantify the effectiveness of saturated buffers to reduce nutrient loading from tile drainage waters. This demonstration program builds upon this same group of collaborator’s findings from the 2012-2015 and 2016-2017 projects.
There are new projects in Illinois that would change the look of a field-tiling projet from parallel lines to a pitchfork pattern and change the way water flows from a field.
The Canadian government invests $181,593 of funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to support a project to demonstrate and monitor contoured drainage on a field at the Huron County demonstration farm in southwestern Ontario.
Rice is a staple food crop of 20 percent of the world’s population. It’s also grown on every continent except Antarctica.
Iowa is one of seven states to receive funding for conservation efforts in new priority watersheds. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently selected eight Iowa watersheds for priority funding through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). NRCS is accepting MRBI project applications through March 15.
The Bay Journal has released a four part series looking into the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program and its progress to meet its 2025 clean up goals that will improve water quality and reduce nutrient runoff.
While phosphorus is a necessary nutrient in agriculture, it is a water quality pollutant that must be prevented from excessively entering waterways. One way to do this is by minimizing erosion.
ALICO member asked me for a definition of the term “sufficient outlet.” This lead to   a series of questions:
Hurricane Michael failed to break up a patchy and toxic algae bloom that has lingered in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida’s shoreline for the last year, experts said Monday, meaning the red tide outbreak could continue to cause problems in the weeks ahead.
Scientists started to develop edge-of-field practices so that growers could keep the early planting offered by the tile drains while protecting nearby streams-and the Gulf of Mexico-from nitrate contamination.
A new regulatory approach in Minnesota, requiring farmers to install buffer strips to reduce nutrient runoff, is showing that mandating water protection methods can make a significant difference. 
Soil-conservation district offices statewide are open for the annual sign-up period for Maryland Department of Agriculture's cover crop program from June 21 to July 17. 
I am excited to assume the position of National Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) President for 2018. This is the same position my father John held in 1999. Much is the same, but a great deal has changed since then. LICA is growing rapidly, largely through the benefits secured by Jerry Biuso, our CEO, and our close ties to government agencies through John Peterson, our director of government relations. Here’s a look at a few of the projects happening at the moment. Memorandum of Understanding with NRCSMany years ago, we had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It has since expired and the executive committee would like to create a new MOU representing LICA and NRCS today. We have established a steering committee to work on a rewrite. The relationship between our two organizations has been very productive since we have similar goals.The History of Farm DrainageLICA has embarked on a comprehensive project to publish “The History of Farm Drainage.” America feeds the world and the development of farm drainage systems has been vital to that effort. LICA believes it is important to have a recorded history of the drainage industry in which many of our members work.Bob Clark, president of Clark Farm Drainage, Inc. and past-president of LICA, is serving as the project chairman, with a goal of collecting relevant information from every aspect of the industry, reviewing and co-ordinating that data, and publishing the results in a leather-bound book which will be available through LICA.We are reaching out to anyone involved in the drainage industry – researchers, producers, contractors, manufacturers, educators – and asking them to provide any history they may have relating to the drainage industry in America, as well as where they see the industry heading tomorrow.All editorial submission should include the follow four items: Date: The publication will follow a time line. What: Describe the action, product or service. Impact: Describe the positive impact it had on the industry. Source: Identify the source. Please submit all editorial to the designated email:
Timmins, ON farmers are now growing more produce than ever before because of a new funding program that makes their land easier to farm.
If someone told you there was a tried-and-true product available that would consistently increase your crop yields by 29 to 36 per cent, you would probably pay attention. These are the estimated yield benefits for systematic tile drainage in Ontario.
Is it worth spending $1,000 per acre on tile drainage to get a $40 boost in crop production?
Ontario is the only Canadian province that has a licensing program for drainage contractors. By far the most agricultural tile is installed in Ontario, and the program ensures Ontario contractors are highly skilled.
Most growers on farmland northeast of Winnipeg, Man., expect to lose about 20 percent of their acres in a typical wet year, which can happen six years in a row.
I speak for everyone at the Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) when I wish the industry a happy and successful end to their spring work season. As a drainage contractor myself for nearly 30 years, I know all too well that spring can be a challenging time for anyone in the construction field.
Here in southern Ontario, where Drainage Contractor is based, crop harvest will be complete by the time this issue arrives in your mailbox, and area producers – and drainage contractors – will be reminiscing about what was one of the driest summers on record.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections can be stressful for contractors and are usually conducted without advance notice.
Britain’s looming exit from the European Union may create opportunities to elevate drainage’s profile in the country’s agricultural policies.
Sept. 12, 2016 - For the first time ever, leading food and agriculture supply chain companies and conservation organizations have formed an “end-to-end” partnership to support farmers in the improvement of soil health and water quality. The collective, announced recently at the launch of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (the Collaborative) — a broad-based effort to support, enhance, and accelerate the use of environmentally preferable agricultural practices already underway in Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. As part of this effort, the Collaborative has committed to raising $4 million over five years to help accelerate the Soil Health Partnership, a farmer-led initiative of the National Corn Growers Association. With 65 farm sites already a part of the effort, the Soil Health Partnership’s goal is to enroll 100 farms for field-scale testing and measuring management practices that improve soil health. Such practices include growing cover crops, implementing conservation tillage like no-till or strip-till, and using adaptive, innovative, and science-based nutrient management techniques. The Soil Health Partnership’s research is quantifying the economic benefits of these practices, equipping farmers and agronomists with information on how healthy soil benefits both their bottom line and our natural resources. The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative’s founding members include Cargill, Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart, and World Wildlife Fund. “As an agricultural and food company, Cargill sees the MRCC as a way to support and accelerate the adoption of existing conservation programs set up by farmers and work with customers and organizations that share sustainability goals with the ag community,” says David MacLennan, chairman and CEO of Cargill. “This collaboration between environmental organizations and some of the world’s largest agriculture-based companies should lead to significantly ramped-up water conservation in the Midwest,” says Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “TNC is eager to use our science and expertise to accelerate solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face in that region, such as improving water quality across the Midwest and addressing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.” The Collaborative plans to initially focus on optimizing soil health practices outcomes, reducing nutrient losses — chiefly nitrogen and phosphorus — into the rivers and streams of the Mississippi River Basin, maximizing water conservation to reduce pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most importantly, the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative is committed to working with others — farmer organizations, environmental groups, and state and local watershed partnerships — to achieve the goals outlined in the Gulf Hypoxia Taskforce action plan and respective state nutrient and water loss reduction plans. Those common goals include: By 2025, 75 percent of row crop acres in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska are engaged in the sustainability measures that will result in optimizing field to market Fieldprint analyses and soil health practices outcomes. By 2025, reduce nitrogen loading from Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska by 20 percent as a milestone to meet agreed upon Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force goal of 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loading. By 2025, 50 percent of all irrigation units used in Nebraska will maximize water conservation to reduce pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer. By 2035, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska have met the 45 percent nutrient loss reduction goal, and partnerships and goals are established to expand the Collaborative across the Upper Mississippi River Basin. The Collaborative will employ four strategies to improve positive environmental and social outcomes in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. These strategies are: Building the business case: build data and engage farmers via the Soil Health Partnership; Sustainable Agriculture Resource Center: provide training and technical support for ag retailers and crop advisors to help scale conservation practices such as fertilizer optimization and cover crop adoption; Policy engagement: plan for and understand drivers and incentives for in-field, edge-of-field, and landscape conservation practices; and, Communications: catalyze change in the region and help consumers understand these efforts by highlighting the innovation of farmers making measurable progress. The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative has partnered with the Keystone Policy Center to facilitate its work.
CHC Navigation announced the availability of its new i50 GNSS receiver, an all-in-one, cost-effective and easy-to-use GNSS RTK solution. GNSS RTK refers real-time kinematic, a satellite navigation technique that provides position data derived from satellite-based positioning systems (GNSS or global navigation satellite systems).
The 4” Flex Tap Tee, a product collaboration between Central Plastic Products Inc. and Fratco, is a new tap tee option for drainage systems.
AMW Machine Control Solutions Inc. has announced the introduction of its new AMW PIPE and AMW DITCH machine control solutions focused primarily on the agricultural market. These products are suited for agricultural water management applications where automatic drainage-tile installation and land shaping for waterways is required. Each of these new machine control solutions is user-friendly and runs on an Android operating system and CHC Navigation GNSS hardware.
Prinsco’s original Goldflex flexible dual-wall pipe was in development for over five years with millions of contractor-installed feet before coming to the market in 2017. Goldflex G2 is the second generation, re-engineered based on years of customer feedback and testing.
AgRePlan, LLC and GeoLogic Computer Systems, Inc. (GeoLogic) are announcing the release of an improved version of the GeoSite Manager System (GeoSite) and a distribution agreement between AgRePlan and GeoLogic.
Hickenbottom is expanding its inlet accessory line. After offering the Hickenbottom Silt Sock as a way to enhance erosion control, it has now created a quick and easy way to modify the flow rate of new or existing Hickenbottom inlet systems.
Fratco adds ProCorr to its catalog of drainage pipe. A pipe produced with high-quality polypropylene to ensure long-term use, ProCorr has been engineered to perform optimally under harsh conditions.
Trucks have never been more important to a manufacturer’s bottom line; not only because they are selling in ever-increasing numbers, but also because there just doesn’t appear to be a price ceiling.
American Augers/Trencor, a Charles Machine Works company, has released a large-scale upgrade to its 1400-series trencher line. The T14-54/617 trencher features a Tier 4 Final emissions compliant engine, electronics and customer-requested features.
Eagle Trenchers has released the Eagle 9700, manufactured by Guntert & Zimmerman based in Ripon, California. The Eagle 9700 wheel trencher features a Cat Tier 4 diesel engine (275 horsepower), all hydraulic drives with intellimatics, optional Trimble GPS automatic steering and grade control, nine-foot digging depth by a 26- or 30-inch width cut. Other features include a pipe feed crumb shoe with optional gravel hopper and a pipe fairled system. Approximate weight is 67,000 pounds. 
Sentera LLC, a Minneapolis-based supplier of remote sensing and drone technology to the agriculture industry, has added elevation maps to its FieldAgent software platform.
Farmers looking for a method to help reduce nitrate flow from specific fields may want to consider constructing a woodchip bioreactor. The woodchip bioreactors acts as a filter to clean the water as it flows from the tile into the surface water body. The cost is often what is on a producer's mind.

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