Drainage Contractor

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LICA’s view: Joining forces

Everyone benefits when associations collaborate for the greater good of the industry.

November 8, 2016  By Steven Anderson

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.

In mid-September, contractor members of the Illinois chapter of the Land Improvement Contractors of America (LICA) began a project in central Illinois, near the town of Macon, for the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the University of Illinois (UofI) designed to generate some of this important data. The project entailed the installation of a new main line and drainage system on a farm owned by the university. The cost of the installation was borne by the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the UofI. There were also considerable in-kind donations by the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors of America (ILICA) and tile suppliers Springfield Plastics, Fratco, River Valley Pipe, and Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS). There was also a much-appreciated contribution of equipment from Altorfer Inc., Birkey’s Inc., Bron, Central Illinois Ag, Martin Equipment, Schlatter’s Inc., and Roland Machinery Company.

An additional contribution by Agri Drain is what made this a unique system. Thirty-seven Agri Drain control structures were installed in the drainage system. These structures were placed to isolate areas of drainage, enabling samples to be taken from individual control areas to determine how different rates and timing can affect outflow of nutrients through a tile system. These control structures were placed at the inflow point into the main and isolated by stretches of solid pipe about 20 feet upstream in order to limit bypass seepage around them when the control boxes are closed. The resulting data should greatly add to the knowledge of what comes out the end of a drainage pipe, and why. This information is needed to combat speculation, as tile is increasingly being looked at as a pollution source and not as the essential production tool it really is in most areas of the world.

Several more sites are under consideration for replicating this system in the future, to both verify results and increase the amount of data available.


Projects like this one are what make LICA a unique trade association: a group of contractors can get together to collaborate on a job with benefits for their industry as a whole, and the association itself. While these guys may be competitors in the areas they generally operate in, they are also friends through LICA, where they have gotten to know each other over the years at conventions, workshops and shows. Several contractors made considerable contributions in terms of time, equipment, and manpower, bringing their crews with them to work on the project. One doesn’t often see this in other trade associations.

There really is a family feeling to LICA. When a member takes the time to get involved, that member begins to see what the real value of their membership can be. There is a lot of knowledge gained in the trenches (pun intended). Those who get involved in a project like the one in Illinois take away more than they give: they find it fun to work together with the group and share together as friends after the day is done.

If you’re interested in getting involved in projects like the one in Illinois, consider joining LICA. Most of the state chapters work on projects aimed at increasing knowledge among contractors and building a stronger drainage industry.

Steven Anderson is chairman of the board of the Land Improvement Contractors of America.

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