New Products
April 22, 2014 – Atlas Copco Canada has added a range of drum cutter attachments to its line of construction tools. Eight new DC models provide cutting widths from 18.9 inches to 48.8 inches (480 millimetres to 1239.52 millimetres), and are ideal for a wide variety of applications such as narrow trenching and precise profiling of rock or concrete.The drum cutters are a complementary product to the company's hydraulic breakers and offer an additional solution for softer rock applications, up to 987 atm (100 MPa), according to a company press release. 
March 10, 2014 – The St. George Company, through its SGC Attachments division, is distributing the Seven E series line of carbide hammer mulchers for hydraulic excavators.The Seven E Series mulchers feature a close ratio carbide hammer configuration and replaceable internal beater bars, resulting in long hammer life, lower required horse power and the production of fine Class 1 mulch.  Other features include oversized, external-loading main bearings, a fully enclosed body of Domex steel with hydaulic operated gate and skid pads made from .79-inch- (20-millimetre-) thick Hardox steel.  There are four model ranges in the Seven E series, fitting hydraulic excavators from five to 40 tonnes, with mulcher widths of three, four, five and six feet. Wood material up to a maximum 10 inches can be mulched. Fixed and variable displacement hydraulic motors are offered. 
Nov. 7, 2013 – Port Industries recently introduced three new pieces of equipment. The Hydramaxx 3610 plow is powered by a 550-horsepower John Deere engine. It weighs 80,000 pounds and is designed to install tile at speeds up to 2.5 miles per hour with transport speeds of 3.5 miles per hour. The Hydramaxx 2710 bucket wheel trencher and Hydramaxx 2510 chain trencher both feature cabs that lower for easy access and rise 48 inches for maximum visibility. The sealed design of the cab with factory heat and A/C provide a clean and quiet environment.
Oct. 21, 2013 – To celebrate Drainage Contractor's 40th anniversary, we're looking back on news and new products from the past four decades. This week's Forty-year flashback is a new product announcement from Laser Alignment, and was published in the 1996 edition of Drainage Contractor magazine.
July 31, 2013 – RWF BRON has released the BRON 350 self-propelled drainage plow. The BRON 350 drainage plow features a Cummins QSM11 tier-3 engine rated at 360 horsepower at 2,100 rpm (power rise to 385 horsepower at 1,800 rpm). The 30-inch wide pads come standard with D6 undercarriage, and can be equipped with optional 32- and 34-inch pads. The BRON 350 comes with 145 gallon fuel tank, oscillating tracks and tilt. For additional information on the BRON 350 Drainage Plow, contact BRON at 1-800-263-1060 or visit
June 14, 2013 – Brown Bear Corporation has introduced the new R31-8' and R31-10' series auger backfiller attachments for high flow skid steers and high flow compact tracked loaders. The backfiller attachments are designed to be used with flows of up to 50 gallons per minute and pressures up to 5,500 psi. The R31 series is available with or without the Universal skid steer hitch and in either eight- or 10-foot widths. E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  for more information. 
May 22, 2013 – Tesmec has introduced a new line of farm drainage trenchers.  The 775DT is the first Tesmec trencher specifically developed for the farm drainage tile industry. The close-loop hydraulic transmission and the exclusive Tesmec flywheel gearbox allow the 775DT to transmit the full power delivered by its Cat C6.6 Tier III diesel engine. The 775 DT is available in bucket wheel or chainsaw configurations. The 775 DT bucket wheel can dig at widths up to 30 inches with a maximum depth of 6.6 feet. The 775 DT chainsaw has the capability of digging widths up to 24 inches and depths up to eight feet. For more information, contact Bryan Blankenship at 817-559-2958 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Collect topographic data year-roundThe WM-Topo system is the latest addition to Trimble’s water management product lineup. The WM-Topo survey system is a portable topographic data collection solution for water management for year-round use in a variety of environments. The survey system includes a Trimble Nomad handheld computer and a pole-mounted GNSS receiver. The company says the system can be carried into areas not easily accessed by a tractor or truck-mounted equipment such as ditches and steep terrain, muddy fields, and fields with mature crop cover. The system can be used as an alternative, or to supplement, survey work previously conducted on the FmX integrated display. The TrimbleWM-Topo system can also be used to calculate the grade between two given points in a field in order to determine the existing slope or check the grade accuracy of newly installed     Wolfe 540 plows 240 feet per minute The new Wolfe 540 Super Plow features a 540 Cat engine with 160,000-pound final drives. It plows 240 feet per minute in low speed and roads at a speed of more than four miles per hour. The long tooth plows over 7 feet deep. The Super Plow comes with a standard 18-foot track length or an optional 20-foot track length. The cab is heated and air conditioned with air ride. Incorporated in the machine control is the Plus 1 System, providing all hydraulic and engine functions. Both the engine radiator and hydraulic cooler have automatic reversing fans to blow out trash.The 540 Super Parallel Link Plow can be equipped with a GPS system that controls depth and tooth attitude to hold very tight grade tolerances. The GPS attitude control allows contractors to plow through unstable soils and carry the tooth on grade.A & E Construction Supply co-manufactures with Wolfe Heavy Equipment the Wolfe Man wheel trenchers and distributes Eager Beaver trailers to assist customers with their machine hauling needs.   Increase yields with Water GateThe Water Gate is a float-activated head pressure valve. It maintains a one-foot increase in water elevation between the downstream and upstream sides of the valve.The Water Gate operates in either free-flow or managed-flow mode. The managed-flow mode is activated by backing water up into the valve. This is accomplished by installing a Water Level Control Structure (WLCS) in the tile main at the lowest point of the drainage system that you wish to manipulate or control. Locate the first Water Gate one foot in elevation upstream from the WLCS. Water Gates can be used in series, locating additional units at one-foot elevation intervals. www.agridrain.comHaviland expands product lineHaviland Drainage Products has recently introduced a number of new products to complement its existing product line. Several different styles of end plugs in three-inch, four-inch and six-inch sizes and internal couplers from two inches up to 12 inches are available. Additionally, Haviland now manufactures rigid-style end caps in 12- and 15-inch sizes, a 12-by-10-inch reducer and 12-inch and 15-inch plastic drain grates. Dual wall pipe in a mini stick option (approximately 10 inches) is available for safety purposes. In addition to these products, Haviland also manufactures single wall pipe, dual wall pipe and CMP in a variety of sizes. New functions added to Homburg Drain Cleaners Homburg Holland says its Homburg Drain Cleaners feature a water pressure as low as 10 to 12 bar. The HPE hose is pushed into the drain so that the specially designed spray head can do its work, cleaning the drain and removing fouling. The company has also introduced the automated Dynamic Drive unit. The term Dynamic Drive encompasses a series of new functions that have been added to Homburg Holland’s automatic drain cleaners, including obstacle protection, proportional control, traction and distance control and auto Improve grade accuracy with EG2 from LatecThe EG2 EconoGrade Laser Grade Control System from Latec features 360-degree receiver technology. The EG2 is designed to improve grade accuracy and interfaces with any valve driven utility, including proportional time, proportional current and proportional flow valves with integrated electronics and can also control electric actuators. AGPS adds new software featuresAdvanced Geo Positioning Solutions, Inc. (AGPS) has added a new feature to its Pipe Pro water management software: automatic steering (Autosteer) for self-contained tile plows. Notable features include dual-GPS input for accurate machine heading and accuracy up to +/- 0.1 feet. Autosteer allows steering to any LAY/PTL path selected in the program, including grid lines, designed drawings and offset paths. AGPS has also added Pipe Design, for use in conjunction with its drainage software solutions. With Pipe Design, users can draw mains with designed depth (including profile view), draw a group of laterals within a watershed boundary or other break lines, and export to AGPS Pipe software for automatic blade control in the field.
Contractors must plan well ahead if they want to take delivery of a new or recent-model, used drainage machine. For their part, manufacturers are cutting, welding and fitting to meet the demand. Such is the state of a booming industry! A whirlwind survey has yielded several pieces of news on the specialist drainage machinery front.
The search for a set of original plans to rebuild a Link 75 drainage plow in the winter of 2012 led to the development of a new manufacturing company, Link Mfg. The company was formed in Ontario drainage contractor, Dave Stevens’ shop, where Bill Eddy, son of the manufacturer, Art Eddy from Eddy Oxford Enterprises, and Tony Paladino, machine designer for the original Link plow, met to help rebuild a mangled Link 75 plow. While analyzing problems with the plow, the trio quickly determined a market existed for newly manufactured, high-quality, double-link drainage plows. Together, they’ve built a new business, using proven plans and are creating a buzz in the industry bringing three new double-link drainage plow models to the market.Link Mfg. is currently manufacturing the Link 25 and Link 75 models, and has plans to bring the Link 250 plow to the market in 2013. All Link Mfg. drainage plows are based on the original Link plow, initially designed and manufactured in the 1970s. The plans have been redrawn and updated by the original designer, Tony Paladino. By using proven plans and examining the original plows to see where they had been reworked and reinforced over the years, the Link Mfg. team is confident the new plows are a superior product.Upgrades and improvementsOnce popular across North America and the world, the Link plows are known for their dependable design, price and quality. The trio forming Link Mfg. hopes to build on that reputation with the introduction of the redesigned models.The Link 25, a three-point hitch plow, is designed for farm tractors. It’s known to hold grade better than some of the cantilever-type plows and is ideal for farmers installing their own drainage, or light-duty contractors. This design is also attractive for those working in smaller areas such as vineyards or greenhouses.The contractor-grade Link 75 plow is a proven design that has been in the field for years, but features a new quick coupler attachment option, engineered by the Link Mfg. team. “This feature offers contractors maximum flexibility,” says Stevens who explains that by allowing the operator to hook and unhook the plow from a dozer within 20 minutes, the quick coupler option eliminates the need to dedicate a dozer for a single, full-time purpose. Two hydraulic hoses, connecting a power supply for a laser or GPS are all that is required to operate the new attachment. The Link 75 plow model is ideal for the installation of four-, six- or eight-inch tile.The newest model, the Link 250, is also a contractor-grade plow for use on heavier equipment and will be available in January, 2013. It will allow for the installation of tile up to 15 inches in diameter.Manufacturing for the marketAll three members of the Link Mfg. team have significant experience working with drainage plows – right from the drawing board, to contractor training, equipment sales, and in-field experience. Their goals are to bring back recognized plows that were popular for their quality and design. The new plow design elements, especially the Link 75 quick coupler, are intended to make the equipment investment, “more feasible and economical for smaller contractors and farmers,” says Eddy, who notes the team is always open to further design suggestions.Built and assembled in the Tillsonburg, Ont., area, Link Mfg. plows and replacement parts for all existing Link plows, are available to the North American and international market.For more information on Link Mfg., visit
100 percent virgin resin in drainage pipeSpringfield Plastics Inc. is the only U.S. company to receive certification for use of 100 percent virgin resin in drainage pipe thus far, and has done so for 12 consecutive years. Springfield Plastics has received certification that verifies the company only purchases virgin resin to be used in the manufacturing of its drainage pipe. Springfield Plastics uses only 100 percent virgin resin material in its products to create a consistently strong drainage field pipe at every inch that will last for generations. Using virgin material, creates a quality dependable pipe, and the market is constantly increasing the demand for this type of product.Springfield Plastics is also adding a new production line at its Auburn, Illinois, facility. In July 2012, the company will install the new production line, which is expected to increase output by over 20 percent. Springfield expanded its production in 2010 to meet the increasing demand for its product. The new line, with an investment of more than $2 million, will give them the same capacity increase as in 2010.The Water Quality InletAgri Drain’s Water Quality Inlet is manufactured of high-density polyethylene and the base snaps into single wall corrugated plastic pipe or slides into Hickenbottom or Precision underground sections. Sizes available are four-, six- or eight-inch pipe diameters and 18- or 36-inch heights. Colors available are green and yellow. The four-inch diameter contains 18 individual wicks; the six-inch diameter, 54 individual wicks; and the eight-inch diameter, 90 individual wicks.The Water Quality Inlet is designed to improve water quality by reducing the transport of sediment, phosphorus and other waterborne constituents to tile lines and surface waters and reducing the velocity and volume of drainage to limit flooding and prevent soil particles from entering infield structures. The Water Quality Inlet can achieve equal or greater flow and improved water quality impacts when replacing standard inlets in fields with drainage water management systems, bioreactors, saturated buffers, blind inlets and terrace channel inlets. It provides consistent filtered flow by the use of ponds, catch basins, wetland lagoons, rain gardens and aquaculture impoundments.This product can also be used in tall grass and high-trash areas to eliminate plugged intakes; for outlet guards if there are ditch-cleaning activities, and lastly, for residential settings to provide an inlet that can be maintained and mowed, and is esthetically pleasing. DT35 Series DitcherNew for 2012, the Land Pride DT35 Ditcher features an adjustable depth shoe, one-inch ripper shank, #80 drive chain, and two-inch main shafts as standard features. With an adjustable cutting diameter of 16 or 18 inches, the cutting edges are reversible/replaceable and manufactured from AR400 material. The impeller leaves a clean and sculptured trough to keep water flowing freely. Perfect for your 30- to 60-horsepower tractor, the DT35 quickly creates channels up to nine inches in depth to fill small irrigation ditches or efficiently divert water from unwanted areas.
In 2011, Port Industries introduced the new Mastenbroek M-3500 heavy-duty mechanical trencher to its product line, the first time the company has offered a chain trencher on tracks. The machine made its debut at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, one of the biggest farm equipment shows in the US, in July, attracting unprecedented interest for a drainage trencher.Previously, Port Industries lacked a track-driven chain trencher in its lineup of trenchers and plows, but the machine cements a 10-year business relationship between the US and UK companies. The M-3500, built by Mastenbroek of Boston, Lincolnshire, UK, one of the world’s leading trencher manufacturers, will be especially attractive to the US drainage contractor. Kevin Shimp, president of Port Industries, says it was well received, with contractors travelling hundreds of miles just to see the newly imported machine. “We delivered the M-3500 to Kurt Leichty of Leichty and Sons in Wayland, Iowa, in September. They are currently renting the machine for the fall season. “The M-3500 fits well into our own existing line of trenchers and plows. All of our trenchers are on rubber tires, so the track-driven M-3500 fills a need in our product lineup for our customers here in the US. This will be the first time Port Industries has offered a chain trencher on tracks. It is the right size machine for the US drainage contractor. It has plenty of horsepower, without being too heavy or too large to move from job to job.” says Shimp. “We have worked closely with Mastenbroek to make sure that the M-3500 will be accepted into the US market. The heavy-duty mechanical drive, along with the oscillating and slewing undercarriage, are very important features in the United States. It has a Cummins engine and Sauer hydraulics and controls. Port Industries already uses the same suppliers, and even the same components, on our own trenchers. This machine is also fitted with components manufactured by Port Industries at some key wear and service areas, so replacement and service parts will be readily available to our US customers.    “Since we made the digging attachment here, all of the normal wear items are in stock at our factory. This includes the digging chain, cutters, sprockets, and bearings. The entire machine is painted the same color as other Port Industries trenchers. Mastenbroek uses many major components that are already widely accepted in the US.”  Shimp continues: “These include Cummins engines, Sauer hydraulics, and Berco undercarriage components. To make the machine even more attractive to the US drainage contractor, Mastenbroek has provided the machine with inch-size hydraulic hoses and JIC hydraulic fittings. These are common to all drainage contractors and easily replaced if needed.” So far, so goodLeichty already has a Hydramaxx 2500 trencher and it has the same digging unit. Commonality of the parts between the two machines was a big factor in his decision to give the MP-3500 a try.   So far, Leichty is impressed with the production of the MP-3500. It is consistently running from 50 to 70 feet per minute at depths between four and five feet. The MP-3500 had more than 100 hours of service, at the time of going to press.  Shimp notes: “Although this isn’t a lot of time, there have been no service issues to this point. Kurt also says the cab is very comfortable for his operators, and it has good visibility. The operators really like how quiet the cab is. The controls are arranged in a very well-thought-out manner. The controls are also very smooth and easy to operate. The fuel consumption is good and they are getting exceptional footage between refuelling.” Based on the performance of the MP-3500 to date, and feedback from contractors, Port Industries says the MP-3500 has a solid future in the US drainage market. The M-3500 has a potentially bright future in the US. “Right now, the market here in the states is at an historically high level. Interest in farm drainage has never been as strong. The M-3500 gives Port Industries the opportunity to take advantage of this strong market in a number of ways,” adds Shimp. “We currently have new trencher orders booked several months into 2012. The MP-3500 allows us to get a better market share. We are increasing production of all of our Hydramaxx trenchers, but this is a slow process in what is almost a custom-built, or one-of-a kind, production environment. By working with Mastenbroek we can get, or keep, more customers. “Port Industries does not manufacture chain-type trenchers on tracks. Traditionally, our North American customers have been left with only one choice if they want this particular configuration. The M-3500 gives our customers another choice. There are a certain number of contractors who will only consider a trencher on tracks. Since we only offered a rubber-tired trencher we never got a chance to engage with these contractors. Now we can offer them a superior chain trencher. This allows us the opportunity to introduce our other products and services to these customers. “Now we can offer a chain type trencher on tracks that has more desirable components for the US contractor. It also has important design features that include a mechanical chain drive, a slewing frame for better turning, and a cab that provides superior comfort for the operator. Mastenbroek has always made well-built, solid machines that are robust and durable. Now we have the opportunity to let the drainage contractors in the US compare their quality and workmanship.”Mastenbroek provides the tractor portion of the M-3500 and Port Industries supplies the digging attachment, both with proven designs.
The business boom for contractors is driving drainage machine sales demand to levels not seen for decades. Many companies report their order books are filled and some are booking orders for delivery in 2012 and 2013. Many trenchers and plows are being ordered with integrated GPS-based control systems and the other sought-after creature comforts.Larry Neid, of Northland Trenching Equipment in Minnesota, says Inter-Drain machines are now being sold with its “USA” package as standard equipment. This includes a choice of several operator cabs: Panoramic cab, traditional one-door, normally mounted the on left side of the machine, but can also be right-side mounted: available on all plows XL cab, larger and taller than panoramic with front and rear doors, normally mounted on left side, can be right-side mounted: available on all plows Big “3” Cab, mounted sideways across the width of machine. This cab has three doors so an operator can exit cab from either side: available on GP double-link plow models only. Inter-Drain machines are now designed with sloping hoods to improve visibility and sound isolation materials have been added. Doors and panels are now lockable and seats are air-ride cushioned. Cooling fans can be reversed to clear trash and are also part of this package, and track rollers are over-sized. All machines have US-threaded hydraulic fittings. Other visual additions include chrome exhaust stacks.Neid adds that the anticipated rubber-tired chain trencher has been delayed until 2012, due to the factory in Holland being at full capacity building pre-sold trenchers and plows.
Not content to launch a single major innovation in what has been a landmark year for the company, European manufacturer Mastenbroek has gone a big step further, introducing its new M-3500 – that is ‘M’ for mechanically driven chain – and GPS for chain trenchers. Drainage trenchers with mechanically driven chains were overtaken, some would say sidelined, by huge advances in hydraulics. But the technology is making a big comeback, largely as a result of Mastenbroek, with nearly five decades’ experience making machines for all types of soil and conditions. The M-3500 brings chain trencher technology bang up to date. It would be a mistake to view the M-3500 as retrospective technology, in any way. Launched at the triennial Bauma machinery exhibition in Germany early in 2010, the machine was a major star at the show, attracting attention from drainage contractors worldwide. One was German drainage specialist Karl Möhle GmbH, which took delivery of the machine, the latest model to roll off the European manufacturer’s production line, right off the stand.Early indications from the Möhle machine, and a second, bought by another German contractor, Mors, are that the M-3500 is fast, highly maneuverrable, exceptionally operator-friendly, and sets a new standard in productivity from which contractors working in some of the most difficult terrains in markets around the world could benefit, with its side slope leveling and curved trenching ability. Undercarriage features independent hydrostatic track drive and 650 millimeter- (25.6 inch-) wide pads on oscillating tracks. The machine marks a significant step forward for the drainage contractor, and complements an already impressive lineup from Mastenbroek. Design specificationsWith a gross weight of 22 tonnes (48,500 lbs), the machine comes with a Cummins QSM 11 construction diesel engine, delivering 350 horsepower (260 kW). Digging depth is up to 3.5 meters (11ft6in), with trench widths of between 160 and 550 milllimeters (6.2 to 21.6 inches).Inside the rise-and-fall operator’s cabin there is an electronic machine display and controls, and a fully proportional joystick that gives the operator total control of the digging mechanism from the seat. The machine also features an independent liftable pipe box, two independent folding pipe reels and machine walkways complying with the latest safety regulations to assist loading pipes.General manager Christopher Pett says the M-3500 was developed specifically in response to calls for a mechanically driven trenching chain and side slope operation. The German market has traditionally favored such machines and its genre is making a comeback elsewhere in Europe. Since its launch, it has also attracted a great deal of interest in North America, where Mastenbroek sees great potential. “There are some key advantages using mechanical drive, as maximum engine power goes straight to the chain. It’s comparatively more fuel efficient and delivers impressive productivity rates. Single joystick control means that setting-in is much quicker, which itself can lead to better productivity.”The M-3500 is the latest machine to be offered by Mastenbroek with Trimble’s Field Level II GPS system. Following extensive European field trials, the launch in early 2010 signified a major step forward in the positional and grade-control accuracy of trenching applications in land drainage. It will be offered to customers as an alternative to current laser surveying and installation equipment. Mastenbroek has a long-standing relationship with Trimble, which pioneered in the drainage industry in the 1970s, taking land drainage to a new level of sophistication. Mastenbroek, which championed laser systems more than three decades ago, believes GPS is set to make its mark on land drainage with similar impact, bringing as it does the opportunities to reduce waste of valuable natural or recycled resources, and accelerated pipe installation. There are potentially massive savings in backfill.Trucking companionHugely popular in Europe and elsewhere is the Mastenbroek CT/12 crawler truck, an ideal companion to a range of the company’s drainage trenchers, including one of its best sellers, the 30/20. The machine is capable of operating in parallel to, or “tram-lining” in the wake of the trencher. An easily accessible and capacious hopper may be loaded by a variety of plant. Many CT/12s have been sold worldwide. Much more than a gravel cart, the self-propelled CT/12 is a true workhorse of the drainage industry.Used for backfilling trenches for drainage and other pipeline applications in its standard form, this machine has an engine rated at 164kW (220 horsepower) and weighs in at 17 tonnes (37,400 lbs). The CT/12 has a large 15-tonne (33,000-lb) hopper capacity, independent variable hydrostatic track drive and a 180-degree swing, hydraulically slewable, front-mounted conveyor discharge assembly. Together, the 30/20 and CT/12 are capable of extremely high productivity in agricultural land drainage specification. Importantly, for contractors that have opted for the CT/12, it extends the season of operation. It is capable of working with drainage trenchers throughout the growing season, not just after harvest. A “moving bed” based at the bottom of the hopper means, additionally, that it is capable of handling a wide range of materials, from sand to coarse aggregates, for trench backfilling. Many contractors can extend their operations outside those of land drainage, using the CT/12, to other utilities works, including pipe-laying, further extending their seasonal operations; the truck is also a tipping hopper and dump truck. Together the CT/12 and Mastenbroek trencher are an unbeatable combination, according to Dan Sweeting, director of Sweeting Brothers in the North of England. “Dedicated self-propelled plant, operated by an accredited contractor is the farmer’s best choice. The contractor can be on site as soon as a crop is harvested. For example, the farmer can be drilling rapeseed within two weeks of harvesting his winter barley, the drainage having been installed in-between crops,” says Sweeting. “The quality of the trench, and the final installation, are crucial to the success of the finished job. The Mastenbroek ensures a clean and firm trench bottom, laid to laser-level grade accuracy across the whole field. And the machines offer the opportunity to design a scheme to fit the field, not the machine, as is often the case with tractor-mounted devices. All soil types can be accommodated with no compromise on machine stability which can affect three-dimension accuracy of pipe installation.”His views are echoed by Graham Falkingham, owner of Castle Farm, also in the North of England. “We’re constantly looking at maintaining the quality of the drainage. If there’s a problem, we have to fix it; in the case of potatoes, for example, they must be kept moist, but not flooded. It’s a delicate balance that new drainage methods enable us to achieve. And with laser leveling techniques, installation has improved beyond all measure,” explains Falkingham. “When we buy a new piece of land, we know that it’s probably going to need draining. So we’ve no hesitation at getting the professionals in. It’s a specialist’s job, so we get specialists in to do it.” Land drainage is enjoying a significant resurgence after a number of years in the doldrums following the withdrawal of grant-aid to carry out the work in the 1980s. In the UK, where Mastenbroek has its manufacturing base, many respected drainage contractors subscribe to the Land Drainage Contractors Association (LDCA), a trade association that monitors the standards industry-wide. Sweeting continues: “The use of this type of equipment is farmers’ reassurance that the job is done to a high standard. That reassurance is backed up by a host of standards drawn up by the LDCA. It’s not just contractors who sign up to it; manufacturers and suppliers who undertake to comply with recognized standards of workmanship and materials are involved. It means that customers have peace of mind when selecting equipment.”
According to the results of practical application studies that commenced in Illinois during 2009, the use of a farm drainage system made from corrugated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe, along with a new bioreactor, can help to stem the amount of migrating nitrogen while increasing crop yield. Managing the nitrogen, a residual of fertilizer, before it travels with water from the fields and is carried downstream has been one of the goals of the project. The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) is leading the ongoing research with support from other organizations such as the Agricultural Watershed Institute (AWI) and the Plastics Pipe Institute, Inc. “We’ve been looking at drainage water control structures and bioreactors where the drainage water control structure helps to direct the nitrate flow through the unit,” states Steve John, executive director of the AWI. “We’ve been working on that issue in various ways for quite some time. It certainly involves work to try and manage fertilizer as efficiently as possible and not apply it at rates exceeding recommendations. There have been some projects using inhibitors. But it’s pretty widely accepted that corn fields are going to lose nitrogen. And, that on some tile-drained farms, nitrogen will be found in the system. Since 2006 we’ve been focusing on ways to address that.”Tile drainage is critical to crop production because it allows excess water to leave the soil. “A tiling system pays back better than anything else you can spend money on for the farm. It’s just unbelievable what it does,” says Garry Starkey, who has a farm in eastern Illinois. Together with his brother, he grows corn and soybeans on land his family began farming three generations ago.    “We’ve been tiling our farms for years. It’s extremely wet here. Some people told us when we first moved here 10 years ago that they didn’t get planted until June. After tiling we can plant anytime, which we prefer to do during April.” He currently has some 640 acres tiled.Starkey is also concerned about the levels of nitrogen. “The bioreactors have been able to collect nitrogen and cut down on the amount that is lost,” Starkey explained. Studies calculate the reduction to be as much as 90 percent.His tile system is installed using perforated HDPE pipe three feet underground. “Any deeper and you get into the subsoil and it won’t draw as well. You want to keep it as shallow as you can but not so shallow where you might hit it with the tillage equipment. We have very dark, natural prairie grass soil with the topsoil running about two feet deep. The worst thing is that it holds water and that’s why you need to drain it. You get it to drain, and you really have something good.”The good, however, does come with the downside of having the water carry off some nitrogen with it. Collecting it and controlling it is now possible because of the HDPE tile drainage system and the bioreactor. “The tiles are a pathway for nitrates to leave the field,” says John. “I view it as a process of recognizing it as an issue, quantifying it as an issue, and then developing the industry, farmers, land owners and conservation organizations to effectively deal with it. I view drainage water management and bioreactors, and additionally, wetlands and saturated buffers as all potential ways to deal with nitrogen in tile water. It starts with trying to manage the fertilizer as effectively as possible. But even with the most conscientious efforts in fertilizer management, some nitrogen will be lost, so developing a way to deal with the nitrates once they reach the tiles provides a highly beneficial and environmentally positive solution.”PPI’s executive director, Tony Radoszewski provides his perspective. “The situation is similar to the one we all faced with vehicle pollution. To solve the problem, no one was willing to give up driving. But solutions were developed such as emission controls on cars and more efficient fuels. “Today, no one wants to give up eating. Drainage systems are required to get the yield from a farm. If corrugated HDPE pipe wasn’t being used on farms today, fields would be flooded and unable to produce anywhere close to the same level of crop. As a matter of fact, some would raise none. And there are treatment methods readily available to modify the amount of elements in the runoff.”One of the industry manufacturers who is leading and helping with the study is Steve Baker of Springfield Plastics, a PPI member company. Baker is the chairman of the PPI’s Corrugated Polyethylene Pipe Association (CPPA) division’s agricultural committee. “Using drain water management techniques helps to hold nitrogen and phosphorus on the farm. And that’s the whole issue. For a farm field that has a bit of slope to it, structures such as dry dams or terraces can be put in so that when the water runs off it can be slowed down and the silt is kept on the farm. That’s a typical conservation practice,” explains Baker. “But when you have land that is flat as a pancake, and there’s no water running off, those fields must be tiled. When you tile them, they are very high producing. Some of the best corn and soybean crop land in the world is here in the United States being drained with underground pipes. The water percolates through the soil and if it has nitrogen, it goes into the pipe. The whole idea is to get rid of the excess water, it runs through the pipe and off the farm. The drainage water management practice that we’ve studied with the ADMC and the AWI has shown that when we keep the water up here at the right time, we keep that nitrogen here. We have studied and put to the test sound drainage water management practices and the bioreactor. This combination works.”The bioreactor unit helps to remove nitrates from the water carried in the tile drainage system.One of the researchers leading the program is Dr. Richard Cooke of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “The bioremediation technology works at the end of the system by removing elements in the water through the metabolism of stationary micro-organisms as the water flows past,” he states. “The bioreactor consists of a buried trench with woodchips through which the water flows before entering the surface water. Micro-organisms from the soil colonize the woodchips. These micro-organisms eat the carbon from the woodchips and take in the nitrate from the water. Just as a human being breathes in oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide, these micro-organisms breathe in nitrate and exhale nitrogen, which exits the bioreactor and goes into the atmosphere as an inert gas. Through this mechanism, called the denitrifcation pathway, nitrate is removed from the tile water before it can enter the surface water.”Baker notes that tests show a substantial result. “The research and a program of ‘in-the-field’ studies show that when the water flows in it might have 20 milligrams of nitrogen per liter, but when it comes out, it will have just two milligrams. And the research is very strong for totally reducing the nitrogen loss.”According to Baker, the Plastics Pipe Institute’s members are supporting the research efforts. “Our industry is behind it 100 percent.”The PPI Agricultural Committee is made up of corrugated HDPE pipe and resin manufacturers and others to work with various organizations such as the ADMC and the AWI. “Our work as the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition and task force has gathered scientists, chemists, famers, fertilizer manufacturers, conservationists, environmentalists and university researchers and teachers to develop sound drainage water methods and this bioreactor,” adds Baker.Even the bioreactor was designed with environmental considerations. “We’re using woodchips,” Baker explains, “instead of taking live trees. It’s all dead wood mostly from storm damage that is going to be chopped up anyhow. Why throw a match to them; use them for something constructive.”“The main question farmers ask,” according to PPI’s Radoszewski, “is ‘Will a tile drainage system using corrugated HDPE pipe help my crop?’ The answer is an emphatic ‘yes.’ It’s a proven fact that crop yields are improved. The next question is ‘Will adding drainage management tools and the bioreactor help the environment?’ Again, the answer is ‘yes.’”
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