Taking stock

Taking stock

When Matt Schwarz, an environmental contaminants specialist with the South Dakota Ecological Services Field Office

Researchers study drainage impacts on wetlands

Researchers study drainage impacts on wetlands

Researchers at the University of South Dakota (USD) report a multi-year project north of Sioux Falls, SD, appears to show a reduction in plant and animal diversity in wetlands that collect water runoff from agricultural land.

Fast-paced rehab

Fast-paced rehab

The drainage system along the primary runway at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, IL,

Innovative sub-irrigation

Innovative sub-irrigation

What do you get when you put a Michigan dairy farmer and a conservationist in a car for several hours?

Meet the Maxwells

Meet the Maxwells

Digging ditches is in Bart Maxwell’s blood.

Des Moines Water Works will not appeal a recent federal court decision to end the utility’s nutrient runoff legal case, instead deciding to pursue legislative changes through the Iowa General Assembly. However, Bill Stowe, chief executive officer and general manager of DMWW, said during a news conference on Wednesday he believes the current political environment in Iowa makes it difficult to address water quality concerns through the legislative process. | READ MORE
Last week, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources released information on a "six-pack" of options landowners could use instead of a 16.5-foot buffer alongside public drainage ditches and the 50-foot buffer alongside public waters. Alternatives including using cover crops, filter strips or becoming certified under the state's Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. | READ MORE
Reducing run-off and improving soil health are the best path to address flooding and excess nutrients, according to a University of Manitoba expert on watershed management.These strategies include more collection of surface water before it leaves the farm and adoption of soil management practices that build soil structure and help water infiltrate, says David Lobb, senior research chair with the Watershed Systems Research Program at the University of Manitoba. | READ MORE
To reduce the size of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, reductions in nitrogen and phosphorus loads have been proposed across the Mississippi River Basin, to a tune of 45 percent. 
Growers who work in the Kootenai Valley in Idaho face earthen dikes that block most of the mountain streams ­­– which are routed into drainage ditches across their farms – from the river. When river flows are high, farmers must close the gravity-fed drains on their ditches and turn on pumps to evacuate the water. This spring, the pumps haven’t kept pace with the runoff of snow melt. | READ MORE
Toledo's 2014 water crisis caused by a toxic-algae bloom in Lake Erie prompted the Everglades Foundation to fast-track the rollout of its George Barley Water Prize — $10 million to the team with the best idea for removing excess phosphorus, the nutrient that toxic algae feed on, from water. | READ MORE
A federal judge has dismissed all of Des Moines Water Works' claims against three counties that accuses them of allowing agricultural drainage districts to send nitrate pollution into the rivers the water utility uses for drinking water, ruling that water pollution is an issue for the Iowa legislature to address. | READ MORE
Saskatchewan, with the introduction of Bill 44, will see some new rules regarding agricultural drainage – a “no net loss” provision has been adopted: if you drain an acre, you must create an acre of wetland somewhere else. | READ MORE
In the past few years, crop prices and farm profitability have slumped in Minnesota and North Dakota, cutting into the appeal of tile drainage in the region. But farmers and landowners shouldn't be overly influenced by poor crop prices, tile drainage supporters say. | READ MORE
The Water Security Agency estimates there are now 100,000 to 150,000 unlicensed drainage sites in the province of Saskatchewan.
The city is spending $484,000 to study riverbank erosion in city parks and the flow of rainwater, snowmelt and agricultural drainage through Mankato's southeast side — two projects among many in a $47 million referendum approved by local voters Nov. 8. | READ MORE
Farmers and contractors should be aware of the new regulations in place for draining water from sloughs and wetlands in Saskatchewan.
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.
Digging ditches is in Bart Maxwell’s blood, going back four generations to 1910 when his great-grandfather, Alexander Maxwell, began laying clay field tile and building small bridges around Montgomery County in Indiana with his brother, Silas.
Under overcast September skies, David Wideman of Wideman’s Farm Drainage marked the end of an era, laying what he believes to be the last clay drainage tile to be installed in Canada.
It was an eventful summer for the folks at Bower Tiling Service Inc. Drainage Contractor first introduced readers to the company three years ago, when we profiled the then 112-year-old business in our Spring 2012 issue. 
Water: the single most important substance in the world. Water: the most available substance in the world. On the surface of those statements it would seem that all is well; we all know there is a “but” lurking within them.  
Traditionally windmills are used to extract water for livestock or irrigation. Not on the Coon Farm.
Take a trip back in time with Luft and Son Farm Drainage, laying field tile in Roosevelt Township, Iowa, circa 1973.
When Fostoria, Ohio, farmer Lanny Boes purchased his first ditch machine 40 years ago, he had no idea it would lead to him starting a drainage contracting company.
Since the mid-1970s, the province of Ontario has had a plow testing and certification program and is currently updating the program. With the significant increase in plow-installed subsurface drainage over the last several years in both the U.S. and Canada, it seems that it is time that a drainage plow testing and certification program be considered for development in the United States. Corrugated plastic (HDPE) subsurface drain tubing installed with plow-type equipment has increased dramatically since the early 1970s, in both Canada and the United States. All of the early drainage plows were equipped with laser-based automatic depth and grade-control systems. Older systems have now been upgraded on many plows, and some trenchers, with the modern satellite-based 3-D GPS depth and grade-control system.
I had the great fortune to study journalism with some of the best in the business. Although I walked away from j-school with a bunch of practical skills, I often think that the bite-sized pieces of fortune cookie wisdom my professors passed along were the most valuable lessons I learned during my studies. Some of my favorites – “There’s a reason you have two ears but only one mouth” and “The only stupid question is the one you never ask” – by no means apply exclusively to journalism. They have, however, had tremendous influence in how I view my role as your new editor of Drainage Contractor.
“From snow buckets to manure buckets, we can fix it. Bring it in or we can come to you. We've made everything from hoof trimmer cow cages to handicap elevators in homes. Bring your own design, or let us design and build.”
As more and more farmers, politicians and laypeople are coming to understand, nutrient run-off from farm fields into waterways is a very big deal. When not managed properly, nutrients from fertilizer and manure make their way into creeks, lakes, dugouts, and other water bodies. But a new tool to help mitigate phosphorus run-off risk will soon be available. Over the past three years, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Intensive Livestock Working Group (an alliance of eight of Alberta livestock and poultry organizations) have been collaborating to build a simple, personalized farm management decision-support tool designed to help manage phosphorus run-off. The Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool, expected to be available in late spring, is a free, Excel-based tool for assessing phosphorus run-off risk. The tool will also provide producers with management solutions that include both a relative cost and environmental efficacy ranking. | READ MORE
With snow on the ground, crews late last year finished the first of many water-quality projects expected in the headwaters of Root River’s south branch in eastern Mower County, according to the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District (MSWCD). The MSWCD led construction of a two-basin terrace system to control water and sediment on a Clayton Township farm field as part of the second phase of the Root River Field to Stream Partnership led by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Work involved building two berms – each berm at least the length of two football fields – to hold and filter storm water running off about 20 acres of crop land. With the basins, sediment and phosphorus losses are expected to be reduced by more than 50 per cent from the 20-acre field, said Kevin Kuehner, project lead with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Six other basins could be built in the next two years in the 2,800-acre watershed study area in Mower County along with thousands of feet of grass waterways planned for this year’s planting season. Started in 2009, Field to Stream uses innovative equipment and technology to monitor sediment and nutrient runoff from farm fields and to study streams receiving storm water. Information collected during the project’s initial six-year phase provided farmers with baseline data to better understand the effects of their existing conservation practices. Farmers learned when soil and nutrient losses were happening and how much was leaving their field to enter nearby waterways. Monitoring continues at these sites as the second phase begins. | READ MORE
Green Aero Tech uses high-tech drones with topographical accuracy to find areas that require drainage. A web interface allows users to switch between elevation, drainage and visible maps. While the company can provide a drainage plan, a prescription map must be provided by a qualified drainage contractor. | READ MORE
When Matt Schwarz, an environmental contaminants specialist with the South Dakota Ecological Services Field Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), noticed more and more farms installing drainage systems, he began to wonder what impact this might be having on the area’s wetlands.
The Transforming Drainage project is capitalizing on the network established during our first year with new research to advance our understanding of drainage water storage systems (e.g. controlled drainage, saturated buffers, and drainage water recycling), foundations for innovative tools, and continued outreach to stakeholders across the Midwest.
Patience is wearing thin in some communities because of water quality problems linked to the loss of crop nutrients from agricultural land and other sources. The city of Des Moines, IA, is moving ahead with a lawsuit against three of the state’s highly agricultural counties that manage drainage districts traced to high concentrations of nitrates in the Raccoon River, a major source of drinking water for the city.
In the hallways at Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) conventions, outside the classrooms of drainage workshops, and during informal conversations amongst contractors and vendors, the topics of RTK-GPS accuracy and plow capabilities are frequently discussed.
Farmers install subsurface drainage on agricultural fields that have poor natural drainage to help get on their fields earlier and increase crop yields.
Tile drainage is accused of increasing downstream peak flows, causing flooding, moving soil and sediment and making it easy for nutrients to move. Imagine a tile drainage system with no surface inlets. Research has shown it does not increase downstream peak flows; flooding is not increased. The existence of tile drainage encourages infiltration, which reduces overland flow. The reduced overland flow reduces the amount of sediment (topsoil) movement. Recent research suggests there is less phosphorus movement through the tile.
The drainage system along the primary runway at Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, IL, was originally clay pipe and perforated corrugated metal pipe. After 50 years, much of the pipe was either leaking severely or had deteriorated to the critical point where replacement was required. Plans called for nearly six miles of large-diameter pipe to be installed, but it had to be done within a strict timeframe, because the runway could be shut down for only a specific time period.
The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force and Dan Jaynes with the National Laboratory for Agriculture & The Environment collaborated to demonstrate and evaluate saturated buffers at field scale to reduce nitrates and phosphorus from subsurface field drainage systems.
What do you get when you put a Michigan dairy farmer and a conservationist in a car for several hours? If the dairy farmer is Blaine Baker, co-owner of Bakerlads Farm in Clayton, and the conservationist is Thomas Van Wagner, technical co-ordinator for the Lenawee Conservation District Center for Excellence Program, you get the initial designs of a livestock reservoir wetland sub-irrigation system.
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.
Agriculture is well known for multi-generational farm operations, with often two generations – and sometimes three – working together.
The year 2015 was the 50th anniversary for the beginning of the corrugated-wall high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic drainage pipe manufacturing industry in the United States. Working for the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Soil and Water Conservation Research Division at Ohio State University, my former colleague Norman R. Fausey and I conducted research to develop new subsurface drainage materials and methods of installation that could potentially be installed faster and at a lower cost than clay and concrete drain tile.
There continues to be a growing interest in tile drainage in Manitoba, and the Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative (MLMMI) is working to help determine beneficial management practices for the application of manure on tile-drained lands.
The term “millennials” is usually considered to apply to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. The precise delineation varies from one source to another, however, for purposes of this article we will place millennials as born between 1980 and 2000.
It was a busy and productive first year for the Transforming Drainage research study, according to project manager Ben Reinhart.
Two factors impact demand for drainage more than anything else here in the U.K.: the amount of rainfall and the price of wheat. The phone tends to ring more often after a month or two of rain or steady price increases. I have expressed my puzzlement that short-term events can affect the purchase of such a long-term investment before, but such is life. Rain and commodity prices are out of my control – if I had a method of controlling either, I would not be wading in the mud as a drainage contractor!
For us it is normally a struggle to find good people, and from my conversations with contractors around the world, I think most people in our industry would agree. Often overlooked, but just as important, is the fact that it’s also difficult to hold on to the good employees we already have. Let’s be honest: the work we have to offer involves sweat, mud, more sweat, and more mud. It’s freezing in the winter and hot in the summer and it’s almost guaranteed that at some point you will get sunburnt. It’s not badly paid work, but it’s not jaw-droppingly good either. There are perks and working in the beauty of the gentle, fertile, rolling hills of Warwickshire should not be understated, but it remains, I suspect, an average job.  
The new Clean Water Rule (often called the “waters of the United States” or “WOTUS” rule) went into effect on Aug. 28. Well, partially that is. The much-publicized rule that establishes the formal definition of waters subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act went into effect in 37 states on Aug. 28. Landowners in the other 13 states — which include North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming — are still subject to the old definition of jurisdictional waters.
DEC.19, 2016—Trimble announced that it has launched a world-first, patent-pending VerticalPoint RTK system for grade control in agriculture. The VerticalPoint RTK system is designed to provide significantly enhanced vertical accuracy and stability of standard single-baseline RTK systems reducing the downtime and costly delays experienced by many agriculture land improvement contractors today. When vertical accuracy inconsistencies occur, agriculture contractors must wait to re-start leveling until the vertical signal is once again accurate, and in some instances even rework portions of the field that were incorrectly leveled before the vertical signal inconsistency was discovered. VerticalPoint RTK significantly reduces vertical design errors in leveling and land forming projects, which occur from inconsistent vertical GPS signals resulting from atmospheric interference. With VerticalPoint RTK, contractors can experience an approximate 25 per cent increase in overall uptime. Currently the industry experiences about 75 per cent uptime; however, with VerticalPoint RTK uptime can increase to approximately 95 per cent. This increase in uptime occurs even in the most challenging environments and at any time of year.  “On average during the summer months we may see five to six hours a day where we don’t have the level of vertical GPS accuracy that we need to complete finish passes,” said Jarrett Lawfield, owner of Lawfield Land Grading, a custom land leveling business. “The vertical accuracy capabilities of VerticalPoint RTK allows the whole project—from bulk hauling to finish passes—to be more efficient. The more accurate bulk hauling is, the less work to be done while finishing.”  To learn more about the VerticalPoint RTK system, visit: trimble.com/agriculture/verticalpoint-rtk
The Hydroluis drainage pipe system, manufactured in Istanbul, Turkey, is the first anti-root drainage pipe. It is anti-bacterial with sensitive filtration. The pipe saves underground water in drought seasons, and works only when the water table rises above specified levels. The system eliminates the requirement for annual maintenance or internal cleaning, according to a company press release. The pipe shows long-term operating performance and is usable in shallow impermeable grounds. For more information, visit www.hydroluis.com. 
Bron has introduced the Double Link 850 (DL850) plow. 
June 3, 2015 – Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. (ADS) has released a new online program for designing and estimating the cost of a storm water system constructed with its StormTech Chambers.
May 15, 2015 – The Bron TR450 wheel trencher is designed with the power and strength to easily dig in even the toughest rocky soil types.
May 15, 2015 – With a highly versatile design and line speeds of up to 115 feet per minute, the Corma HSC Series 2 perforator can be configured for on-line perforation of a variety of corrugated pipes.
May 15, 2015 – The Agri Drain Warthog floating pump is a rugged, highly efficient pump assembled in the United States.
May 15, 2015 – Major upgrades are taking Wolfe wheel trenchers up a notch with increased efficiency, safety and performance.
May 15, 2015 – Advanced Drainage Systems’ new fine slot N-12 is designed with fine slots in the valleys of the pipe.
May 15, 2015 – Tesmec USA’s 775 DT trencher is available in two different versions: chainsaw and bucket wheel.
May 15, 2015 – With more marginal soils being drained in recent years, the demand for easy to apply filtration fabrics with enhanced performance characteristics has grown.
May 15, 2015 – With thousands of miles of energy pipelines proposed or under construction in the Corn Belt, having a long-term, reliable way to repair tile damaged during pipeline construction is critical.

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