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Research: Soil drainage improves cover crop growth

On naturally poorly drained soils, good drainage is the first step toward improving crop yields and soil health.


June 8, 2020
By Drainage Contractor

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Purdue University Extension published part two of a long-term drainage experiment which concluded that tile drainage has positive effects on cover crop growth.

The study provides long-term drainage experiment insights on crop yield, cover crop growth, soil improvement, water flow and chemical transport in southeastern Indiana. The 35-year project was conducted at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center (SEPAC) in Butlerville, IN.

Part two of the study discusses the effects of drainage on cover crop growth and the effectiveness of other conservation practices on improving crop growth and soil properties.

The study’s key conclusions are:

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  • Drainage improves cover crop growth.
  • Drainage enables other conservation practices to work better, to improve soils and crop yields.

Biomass data varied from year to year due to weather, but drained plots always produced more biomass than undrained controls. Photo courtesy of Purdue University Extension, AY-398-W.

The report concludes that a good drainage system is a necessary first step to improving crop yields and soil health on naturally poorly drained soils. Agronomic conservation practices alone are not likely to make up for an inadequate drainage system, the report continues.

“Agronomic conservation practices alone are not likely to make up for an inadequate drainage system.”

Read the full breakdown of the research study by Purdue’s agronomy department’s Eileen Kladivko.