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NVCA grants available for tile drain control boxes in Ontario


May 20, 2015
By Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority
This controlled drainage box can be installed to upgrade existing tile drainage in appropriate sites The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) has added tile drainage control boxes to its Healthy Waters Grant Program.

May 20, 2015, Utopia, ON – The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) has added tile drainage control boxes to its Healthy Waters Grant Program.

Farmers in the Nottawasaga Valley watershed can access a 60 per cent grant – up to $2,000 per box – to upgrade their existing tile drainage.

Controlled tile drainage gives farmers improved control of their fields’ water level. Tile drain control boxes are installed close to drain outlets. Farmers manage removable panels or “stoplogs” to help conserve water and nutrients for the crop during the growing season. The panels are removed from control drain structures in early spring to permit free drainage and soil warming, until crops are planted. After seedling emergence, a metal handle tool is used to add panels to the desired level. This restricts drainage so the crops can access the water and nutrients during the growing season.

With uncontrolled tile drainage, the target water level is constant, set at tile depth. But in controlled drainage the target level can be changed by adding or removing panels. The number and location of boxes needed depend on the drainage system and spacing.

“Controlled tile drainage is one of the many environmentally sound projects that are good for both agricultural production and the farmer’s bottom-line,” said Shannon Stephens, NVCA‘s healthy waters program coordinator.  

This technology is now beginning to catch on in Ontario; it is already common in the United States and Australia.

There are many benefits to employing controlled tile drainage on a farm, including:

  • Increase yield: A 2010 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) study in southeastern Ontario found controlled drainage had a net revenue benefit of $55/ha/year for corn and $21/ha/year for soybeans compared to uncontrolled tile drainage in a five-year corn and three-year soybean rotation.
  • Reduce nutrient loss: During the growing season, tile drain control boxes help keep nutrients in the field, to be used by crops. AAFC found controlled drainage reduced 63 per cent of phosphorus, 57 per cent of ammonium, and 65 per cent of nitrate discharge from tile drains into streams and lakes. This reduces pollutants that contribute to excessive algal blooms in waterways.
  • Conserve water: Controlled drainage helps conserve valuable summer precipitation for crop usage.

For more information about tile drain control boxes and installation grants, contact Shannon Stephens at (705) 424-1479 ext. 239 or visit the NVCA’s Landowner Grants and Program page.