Drainage On Demand
Paige E. Buck, State Public Affairs Specialist
Date: March 10, 2014
If farmers could actually control how much water their soil holds in the top three to five feet, do you think they’d do it? “You bet they would,” says District Conservationist Tony Hammond. “And if they could turn tile drainage on and off to lower the water table for getting into the field or raise it when crops need the water, they’d love it.” It’s not just a dream. By using a new conservation practice called Drainage Water Management, farmers can do exactly that.
Drainage Water Management, or ‘DWM,’ is a new option from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “That’s the beauty of this new practice,” Hammond says. “Farmers can customize when their tiles hold on to water and when they release tile water. It’s the ultimate tool.”
State Conservationist Ivan Dozier agrees, “There are so many aspects of farming that we cannot control, but this low-cost water control system really gives you more options to manage and control your water. It puts that power into your hands.”
Benefits of this NRCS conservation practice can address drought conditions and provide water quality improvements, production increases, and better nutrient management. According to NRCS, the practice only works on flat farmland—fields with a slope of less than 1%. In Illinois, that means it could be used on nearly 10 million acres.
Illinois will target 14 counties for a Special DWM Project and a demonstration watershed site. Counties included are LaSalle, Grundy, Kankakee, Livingston, Ford, Iroquois, McLean, Logan DeWitt, Piatt, Champaign, Vermilion, Edgar, Douglas, Macon and Christian. “The Town of Tovey Watershed, located in northwest Christian County will be our demonstration headquarters,” says Hammond.
NRCS offers both technical and financial assistance to develop DWM plans for farmers and get structures installed quickly. The practice works on both new and existing tile systems. DWM offers farmers an easy way to control water—whether there’s too much in the spring or you need to hang on to what water you have at the end of the summer. It also helps farmers manage nutrients in their fields. “Keep those nitrates where you need them. That saves money AND improves the environment,” Dozier adds.
To watch the new 4-minute video that shows how water control structures work, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4mYch4RFsY. Add DWM to your NRCS conservation plan using either EQIP or CSP Farm Bill options. Make a call to your local NRCS office and start the conservation conversation today.
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