Drainage Contractor

Editorial: Changing times call for GroundBreakers

Drainage is innovative – let's recognize those who help make it that way.

October 22, 2021  By Bree Rody

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard since childhood: when it rains, it pours.

In the drainage industry, it’s a phrase that both applies literally and metaphorically. In some geographies, “when it rains, it pours” quite literally refers to water – especially this year. In August, Hurricane Henri wrought havoc on parts of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – with five to nine inches of water in many areas. Other states also saw higher-than-average precipitation throughout August. At the exact same time, others experienced a devastating drought – according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on Aug. 31, 47 percent of the continental U.S. was experiencing drought conditions, an increase from the beginning of August. Impacts on producers have been significant. Portions of herds have been sold, plans have been derailed and some governing bodies have had to offer subsidies and assistance. So in that case, “when it rains, it pours” remains metaphorical: when it rains bad news, it pours.

Applying drain tile to fields is a centuries-old practice that, in many cases, has not required much innovation. Yes, the tile has changed from clay to polyethylene, and precision ag tech has enhanced much of the equipment, but nevertheless, the beauty of agricultural drainage installation is that it’s tried, tested and true. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many researchers, innovators and contractors who are working behind the scenes to perfect new ways to do things and cope with our ever-changing world. Take, for example, the practice of drainage water recycling (page 28). The economic and environmental benefits of saving water for a not-so-rainy day are now well-known, but increased research shows how subirrigation using DWR can improve yields and quality.

As for extra rainy environments, sometimes subsurface drainage solutions alone are not the right fit – sometimes, a creative combination of subsurface and surface drainage is the most efficient way to drain a farm. Surface solutions like two-stage ditches could help combat a summertime deluge and save crops.


In times of big change, big thinkers should be rewarded. That’s why we’ve launched our GroundBreakers program, which aims to recognize innovative and creative drainage contractors and other professionals. This is not a “Top X Under X” program – nominees can be of any age – but aims to recognize those who are keeping an eye on the future, demonstrating leadership, engaging in lifelong learning and collaborating effectively with stakeholders. Nominees must currently be working as a drainage or land improvement contractor or actively involved in the sector as an industry expert. You can check out more details on our website. 

Tile installation may be a tried and true practice, but let’s not discount the many ways in which the industry moves forward every day.

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