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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

The Research Leader (J. L. Fouss) of the Soil and Water Research Unit assists the ARS National Program Leader (D. A. Bucks) for Water Quality & Management Research in providing leadership for the Interagency Task Force on Agricultural Drainage Water Management to improve water quality in the humid regions of the USA by reducing nitrate lost from cropland in subsurface drainage discharge. The Task Force recommends a controlled-drainage management practice developed and demonstrated through research as several locations in the U.S. The drainage management involves control of the drainage outlet to maintain a shallower water table in the soil profile, thus reducing annual nitrate loss by 30% or more; a 50% reduction is common. The drainage control during the winter (non-growing season) is especially important since excess nitrate – not previously taken up by the previous crop – can be leached from the soil and carried off-site by the surface drains during normally wet winter months in the humid regions. More information can be obtained at the web site:


The Research Leader (J. L. Fouss) was recognized for his early research in ARS in a recent article published in the Spring 2004 issue of NewsCAST by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). The research was published as the first in a series of “research success stories in agriculture” selected from published literature, plus the recognition of wide acceptance of new technologies developed through the research. The research involved the development of the laser-beam automatic grade-control system used on drainage plows and trenchers to install corrugated plastic drainage tubing accurately to specified depth and gradient. The method is now used world-wide, and has been adopted to many other applications in irrigation, land grading, construction, alignment, military, and many others. A web link to the "Success Stories in Agriculture" article, part of  NewsCAST Vol. 31, No. 1, 2004, is on the CAST website. The article is on pages 15-18 of the NewsCAST issue; and the web link is:

Last Modified: 1/2/2009