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?

Canada’s current wetland protection efforts have overlooked how the environment naturally protects fresh-water resources from agricultural fertilizer contaminants, researchers from the University of Waterloo have found.
Some of the water draining off an isolated, 120-acre patch of farmland bordering on the Wildwood Conservation Area (St. Mary's, ON, Canada) will be diverted from its established path to the reservoir – through a 12-inch municipal drainage pipe – into a set of three constructed ponds that are currently under construction.
The state of Michigan is working on a plan to reduce pollution in Lake Erie, but the Michigan Environmental Council says the plan doesn't do enough.
The western end of Lake Erie is likely to see a significant algae bloom this summer -- and it could reach levels seen in 2014, when Toledo's water supply was tainted.
Local landowners and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority are working together on a program to improve water quality in the Lake Huron coastal watershed.
The recommendations Iowa State University makes on water quality practices for Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy are based on monitoring and research going back as far as the 1970's that continues to this day. It's expensive, but essential in verifying practice performance and informing both farmers and the public. | READ MORE
This is arguably the most contentious phrase in environmental law: "waters of the United States."
The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative is developing innovative tools, practices and technologies to help farmers and municipalities reduce phosphorus and algal blooms in the southwestern Ontario watershed, which feeds into Lake Erie. The project was officially launched at a press conference on June 27th, 2017. 
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world, comparable to rainforest and coral reefs. Now, modern agriculture is trying to capture some of nature's wetland magic as a means to manage nutrients on the farm.
Taking place June 27-29, this program will feature an explanation of water quality research taking place. Participants will also be able to explore site, review costs, setup, how measurements are taken and what data is collected.
The Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. (PPI), announced this year's winners for its Members and Projects of the Year Awards Program.
Farmers in the Chatham-Kent area are actively participating in a special cost-share program to boost water quality in the region through changing practices on-farm.
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.
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.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists led by Antonio Mallarino, professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, has completed two years of a long-term field study to better understand the impacts of cover crops on nutrient loss with surface runoff.
At last fall’s International Drainage Symposium in Minneapolis, scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) presented a study on soil fertility, water quality and its relationship with tile depth and spacing.
Few things can make or break a cropping season like flood and drought. These two water-related events are at the core of many drainage and irrigation decisions.
A year after a plan to tackle residual phosphorus loss from farmland into the Thames River was developed, the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (TRPRC) is being put into action in Ontario. This is thanks to a grant from the Agricultural Adaptation Council through federal-provincial-territorial Growing Forward 2 funding programs, with matching contributions from participating organizations.
We see the impact of phosphorus and nitrogen losses to waterways every summer in bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie. Although other environmental elements and human inputs are factors, the runoff from farmers’ fields has always been viewed as the primary culprit.
Since 2011, the majority of corn producers in Illinois have followed the recommended maximum return to nitrogen (MRN) application guidelines. More than half of all farmers are either knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about the “4R” strategy (right nutrient source at the right rate, in the right place and at the right time).
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.
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.
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.
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.  
Bluewater Pipe Inc.has recently announced their latest charitable campaign – and this one is a little different. 
Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. (ADS) has developed the Agricultural Drainage App, a new mobile application for planning agricultural drainage systems, offering automatic calculations for both the proper quantity and type of pipe needed to achieve the drainage required. Free to download, it is now available from the App Store and on Google Play.
A look at some of the newest products this season
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.

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