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Combo of drainage, subirrigation can cut costs, increase yields


January 3, 2017
By University of Missouri Extension

COLUMBIA, Mo. – A combination of drainage and subirrigation boosts corn yields by 45 percent and soybean yields by 20 percent in claypan soils, says Kelly Nelson, MU Extension agronomist at the Greenley Research Center, Novelty. The Greenley system allows excess water to drain and be retained as needed.

Nelson said the research shows how proper drainage protects the environment and cuts input costs. The drainage water management system reduced nitrate loss by 70 percent and phosphorus loss by 80 percent.

Nelson describes the drainage structures as boxes buried in the ground. The boxes have slides, or gates, that allow adjustment of the water table in the soil. Water is sped up for drainage or slowed for irrigation, based on soil needs.

The structures are spaced through water management zones based on the field’s slope. Water either flows or is retained based on precipitation and the growth stage of the plant.  

The system may not be cost-effective or necessary for all sites, Nelson said. “Benefits must outweigh the cost.” Also, Nelson found reduced yields result if the system is not designed and installed properly. Read more here