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North American Drainage Conference announces new agenda, speaker details

December 12, 2023  By Drainage Contractor

The first annual North American Drainage Conference will take place virtually on March 5.

For $20 USD, contractors, landowners and all those interested in drainage and water management can tune in for half a day of engaging educational content focused on tech, tools and the future of drainage.

Learn more about the conference here.

Session speakers, titles and descriptions have now been announced. These sessions include:

Drainage for the long-haul: Impacts on timeliness, crop yields, soil health, and water quality

Speaker: Eileen Kladivko


Drainage benefits crop production in many ways, including improved timeliness and trafficability for field operations, improved crop growth and yield, and improvements in soil health over time.  There are also tradeoffs with greater nitrate losses with increased drainage intensity.  This presentation will highlight key findings from a 35-year drainage study in Indiana.

Decision support tools to inform drain design

Speaker: Ehsan Ghane

Saturated buffers (NRCS standard 604) are designed to reduce nitrate loss from subsurface-drained farms. The objective of this study is to develop and test a new saturated buffer decision-support tool for designing and evaluating saturated buffers. The CIG Classic-funded tool has two model components: DRAINMOD and the saturated buffer module. After the user zooms in to the area of interest, they draw a boundary around the field of interest. The tool automatically retrieves site-specific data including the local SSURGO soil, DAYMET weather, and digital elevation model as input to the tool. The user needs to enter drainage system properties, cropping system, buffer location, and cost of the system. Then, the tool identifies the optimum width of the buffer that maximizes nitrate load removal. The tool also provides financial indices to evaluate the profitability of the saturated buffer. These financial indices include payback period and cost per pound of nitrate removed.

Impacts of drainage outlet redesign

Speaker: Matthew Helmers

In many areas the drainage main is undersized relative to modern design standards. This presentation will discuss the water quality and crop production impacts of drainage main redesign where the outlet is designed for current and future agricultural systems.

Agricultural drainage detection from multi-source remote sensing

Speaker: Ruijie Zeng

Agricultural tile drainages are widely implemented in low-relief landscapes in the Midwest U.S. to improve crop yields by removing excess water from the root zone. Despite their agricultural benefits, these on-farm practices can lead to hydrologic and environmental consequences at watershed scale, including flow regime changes and water quality degradation. However, current regional hydrologic models only represent natural river networks that are derived from coarse terrain data (e.g., 10-meter resolution) and don’t include the extensive agricultural drainage networks exhibited at meter scale resolution. In this study, we developed a noise-removing and feature-reservation method to detect the features (e.g., edge, slope, curvature) of agricultural drainage open ditches from sub-meter resolution terrain information from LiDAR. We also developed a simulation-based time window to facilitate in-situ unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) survey for subsurface drainage pipe detection. The detected agricultural drainage network provides detailed drainage information (e.g., layout, dimensions) for regional hydrologic simulation. In addition, the high resolution drainage open ditch structure can support natural-based solutions to enhance water quality and drought resilience for the heavily engineered landscape.

Working with stakeholders on improving water quality through drainage: A contractor’s perspective

Speaker: Jacob Handsaker

Hands-on Tiling and Excavating owner and 2023 Groundbreaker Jacob Handsaker shares his own perspective on playing an active part in the water quality discussion. Handsaker details how his worked with governmental agencies to forge the path to a first-of-its kind-partnership with landowners, contractors and government agencies to speed the adoption of water quality practices in Central Iowa.

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