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Edge of Field Water Quality Monitoring

Edge of Field Tile Sampling, ARS photo

Edge of Field water quality monitoring measures the amount of water and the quality of the water leaving agricultural fields, usually after a rainfall or snow melt.  A water sampling devise samples the surface and subsurface water running off the field and the amount of water.  Researchers analyze the water samples to determine what is in the water.  Researchers work with farmers to compare water quality difference between different management practices.

Why does water runoff agricultural fields?  When more precipitation falls on a field than the soil can hold, the excess water leaves either by running off the surface into streams or moving deeper into the soil profile.  Farmers may artificially drain fields with soils that do not easily move water within the soil profile, called poorly drained soils, by placing drainage tile below the surface of the soil.  Water enters the drain tile through small openings in the tile and is transported by gravity to a drainage outlet, usually a ditch or a stream. Drainage tile empties into the same drainage ditch or stream as surface water. 

Water running off the surface of a field or drainage tile carry soil particles that are not held in place by plants and nutrients that have not been taken up by plants or bound by the soil.  Excess soil particles and nutrients in the runoff water decreases the quality of the water.

Edge of Field Monitoring stationAdditional Resources:

Signup Information Under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Ohio News Releases

National Edge of Field website

Water Quality Monitoring & Assessment

Animal Waste and Nutrient Management

Hydraulics & Hydrology

Stream Restoration

Pest  Management

Water Management


Contact your local USDA Service Center for more information

Ohio Program Contact:

Barbara Baker
(614) 255-2502