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Improving drainage management on agricultural lands

August 11, 2022  By Sara Delheimer, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

The cropland in the Midwest is among the most productive in the world, but only if adequate drainage is provided. Drainage reduces soil compaction, makes it easier for farm machinery to work the land and decreases crop damage from excess moisture.

Much of the region uses underground pipes or “tiles” to channel excess water from the field. Nitrogen, phosphorous, and bacteria can make their way into tile drainage systems and enter lakes, rivers, and groundwater. This pollution can be harmful to humans and can create “dead zones” where aquatic life cannot survive.

A team of 22 Land-grant University researchers are working with USDA scientists and industry partners to develop new technologies and strategies that improve drainage. The project’s strong Extension component has increased farmers’ knowledge and confidence about drainage management and provided valuable information to industry professionals, educators and policymakers.

Benefits of Drainage Management

Improved drainage management could significantly reduce water quality problems and related environmental and human health risks. Furthermore, improved drainage can boost crop yields and reduce variability from year to year, providing a more stable source of food for consumers and predictable profits for farmers. | READ MORE


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