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High-Tech Ways to Wield Water

DWM is now so high-tech that it is possible to use precision methods to better them. It’s a good thing, too, since people are more and more concerned about nutrient loss due to run-off and water conservation. In addition, making sure your drainage system works well also helps maintain a good moisture level ending in a better harvest.

One method is to have a “control structure,” utilizing tile lines to effectively lower and raise the level of water in a field. Farmers can put these box-like structures on a line directly in front of an outlet. It would connect to a tile for drainage that was already there. These structures hold stoplogs – hard sheets of plastic that are vertically held by tracks along the inner sides of the structures.

A farmer removes or adds stoplongs to lower or raise the water table. A high water table, or heavy rain, might make the structure overflow.

It is necessary to have a flat field for a good DWM system. If a field is flat, it is possible to change the level of the water table within 12 inches. A field that is not completely flat requires, these structures would need to be implemented in the field, not just at the edges

Precision Techniques

Those who design water systems can use topography and soil type maps that utilize GPS, according to Reetz Agronomics’ president, Dr. Harold Reetz. In addition, such GPS systems aid in tile and drainage system installation.

Even more technology is being developed for water systems. Trimble, for example, has a variety of water management tools such a a WM-Drain solution for farms, a software called Farm Works Surface, and a leveling tool called FieldLevel II. All three together can be used to survey, analyze data, design a good system and install.

Advance Geo Positioning Solutions, Inc. (AGPS) developed a program called Pipe Pro that does the math to determine a tile’s slope and depth, thereby controlling installation. One of its many utilizations is designing a layout that doesn’t necessitate point-to-point paths in the drainage system for lasers. AGPS has also developed Vertical Curve Technology that allows the farmer to create a layout with pipes laid in previously-considered unfavorable or difficult locations. All the farmer has to do is set his or her preferred parameters, then the program comes up with a drainage system according to a pre-set maximum allowance of grade breaks.

There are even system that can control DWM electronically. Agri Drain Corp.’s Smart Drainage System can be programmed remotely and is solar powered. Farmers can use it to control how much water flows out of their drainage system, check and keep track of precipitation, how much water is in the soil, what rate the water is flowing at, and calculate how much the water level has been reduced and the subsequent loss of nutrients. A farmer can even include a water source into the system that will allow the process to be reversed for sub-irrigation.

What do you need?

Reetz explained that a problem with drainage can be due to a number of factors: the type of soil, the topography, and when and how much rainfall there is. If the soil has more clay, drainage tends to be more difficult. Most soils, in fact, have some clay accumulated in a layer below the top.

A lot of farming land has spots that are lower and therefore collect water. An elevation change of a couple of feet can even cause problems for good drainage.

As for draining water from the surface, waterways covered in grass and ditches can take extra water to bigger streams. If a field is flat,  small ditch that is re-done every year is sufficient, Reetz advised. However, for a field with more issues, tiles under the surface are a must.

Accordign to Reetz, there’s been a huge demand for fixing drainage issues in important farming areas like the Corn Belt, areas of the Mississippi Delta and more and more in the Lake Erie Basin an the Red River Valley.

Places that get less rain or have courser soil usually don’t have as many problems with drainage. Conversely, managing the available water is a problem more and more farmers are wrestling with.

As managing water becomes more sophisticated and farmers need assistance with the details, there may be opportunities for retailers to provide some water management services in conjunction with other crop scouting and management services,” Reetz suggested.

A business can develop sensors for soil moisture, machines that monitor crop stress and other technologies that remotely sense the crops. All such technology will help with drainage management.

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