Mother nature has not cooperated for what seems like years on end now. The wet fall shutdown most fieldwork following harvest, leaving contractors and farmers hoping for a cooperative spring to make up for lost time. That obviously has not happened. A wet fall has been parlayed into a disastrous spring. The extremely wet spring amplifies the importance of having an adequate water management system in place. Without a proper drainage system, tight planting windows become even tighter. Which with this spring could mean waiting weeks not days to get back into the field. It could also be the difference in getting a field planted and making the tough decision to enter into a prevent plant program. All of the Midwest is behind the planting schedule, but OH, MN, IN, SD, and IL have been hit the hardest as they range from 46%-64% behind schedule as of May 26.
Getting water off of the field is only part of the equation though. The quality of that water has an impact on downstream users and thanks to extreme precipitation patterns, so does the quantity. It is getting clearer that many of our best management practices are limited to what are considered base flow events, even though we can lose a majority of nutrients during large rain events. Dr. Chris Jones, from the University of Iowa-IIHR, stated in a recent blog post that 3.5 million pounds of nitrogen was delivered from the Des Moines River to the Mississippi River near Keosauqua, Iowa on May 29th alone.
Innovative on-farm water storage infrastructure should be looked at to provide retention/detention to be reused at a time when crops need additional moisture, or at the very least can be retained until a best management practice such as a constructed wetland or saturated buffer/bioreactor has the capacity to remove nutrients.
Efforts are underway to investigate water storage at the field scale as well as at a drainage district scale. The Transforming Drainage team has been studying drainage water recycling in which drained water can be stored in a reservoir and then be used as irrigation when there is a water deficit. ADMC’s Member Spotlight from the March Newsletter featured ISG’s work in Blue Earth County Minnesota. ISG has designed a system to reduce peak flows from improved drainage infrastructure while providing other water quality benefits in Judicial Ditch 9.
The changing climate is making it clear that managing our water will become even more important in the decades to come to maintain productivity. The opportunity is there to make the drainage systems more efficient both agronomically as well as for additional environmental services they can provide. Now if only mother nature would give us a window to install them.
ADMC Diamond Members
Jeanne has been updating the ADMC event calendar. Please let us know if you have an event you would like to add. Many summer field days can now be viewed there. View Here
Many ADMC members will be participating in the ADMS – NCERA 217 joint task force meeting in Moorhead, MN on June 5th and 6th. ADMC and its members will be giving a 30 minute update at the meeting.
I was able to present on conservation drainage practices at a quarterly breakfast meeting hosted by TNC for Des Moines business people. The purpose of the events are to promote conversations with the non-ag sectors on what Ag is doing in the conservation world.
ADMC has been assisting IA LICA and the Iowa Ag Water Alliance in organizing field days that will feature conservation drainage practices. There are two field days coming up in early June. The first is on June 6th near West Branch, IA followed by a June 11th field day near Albert City, IA.
The Advanced Conservation Drainage Steering committee is finalizing the summer training events. The first training will be June 19th and 20th and will be for saturated buffers. ADMC will be facilitating the training as well as speaking at the events.
We are looking for opportunities to incorporate saturated buffers with the Nutrient Tracking Tool. Discussions of where there will be many installations taking place and how to properly incentivize landowners are being had.
I have been reaching out to Indiana CREP Leaders to promote the inclusion of saturated buffers in their CREP filter strips. There are 11 priority watersheds in Indiana focusing on using CREP to get filter strips put in place. Since 2005 there have been nearly 715 linear miles of filter strips/riparian buffers put in place. The ADMC study showed that Indiana has upto 23,000 potential saturated buffer sites, so it makes sense to try to install the practice while the filter strip is being put in place.
ADMC Welcomes New Associate Member
Clare Lindahl, CEO of the Soil Water Conservation Society, has become an associate member of ADMC. Clare is in charge of public affairs, program development, governance, and special projects.