Research on DWM
WHAT IS DRAINAGE WATER MANAGEMENT?
Holistic Water Management
Presently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency spends about $250 million per year on the Continuous Sign-up Program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which are the two largest programs funding buffer strips, riparian buffers, and other practices to improve water quality. NRCS also funds buffers and other surface water management practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
All of these practices focus on intercepting surface nutrients from reaching nearby waterways. However, subsurface nutrients emanating from tiles and drains into nearby water ways have not received as much attention from these programs. Therefore, a more holistic approach to water management needs to be promoted to agricultural producers and landowners to intercept more of the subsurface runoff. Promoting NRCS’Practice Standard 554, “Drainage Water Management” is definitely a start in the right direction. However, more research as well as cost-share assistance under Continuous Sign-up and the CREP programs needs to occur to help promote the practice to producers.
Reduces Nutrient Enrichment of Waterways
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Practice Standard 554, entitled “Drainage Water Management,” provides guidance to landowners who want to use “control structures” to reduce water flow and nitration loading from their subsurface tile and drain systems during the non-growing season. Reducing these flows during the fallow season, producers can reduce nitration loadings by 30 to 60 percent. Producers would also benefit from less runoff of their fertilizer inputs.
Click here to view an article written by Agricultural Research Magazine entitled “Draining the Land Without Polluting the Waters”.
Below are some NRCS practice standards for drainage water management:
Drainage Water Management
Structure for Water Control
Mitigates Dry Spells
Using the control structures to capture and manage summer rain within the soil profile, rather than let it drain, can help mitigate the cost of dry spells and droughts on producers’ yields. For instance, producers may increase corn production by 10-15 bushels per acre using control structures.
Possible Wildlife Habitat Benefits
By raising the water table over the winter months, the control structures could potentially create more wildlife habitat in low areas of a field.
A good deal of research has been conducted over the last decade in various parts of the United States, which shows dramatic reductions in nitrogen loadings and, in many instances, phosphorous too. ADMC is raising public and private funding for additional research in IN, OH, IA, MN, and IL to investigate possible phosphorous reductions as well as certain agronomic, wildlife and economic issues and benefits.
ADMC recently contracted with an economist to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of drainage water management. It concluded that benefits exceeded costs by a ratio of three to one.