|Vegetated Agricultural Drainage Ditches|
My interest in vegetated agricultural drainage ditches (VADDs) began in 1996 with my thesis research under the supervision of Dr. Jerry Farris at Arkansas State University. In 1998 with the assistance of Dr. Charlie Cooper (ARS-retired) and Mr. Sammie Smith (ARS-retired), we began a focused water quality research program on ditches within the Water Quality and Ecology Research Unit of the USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory. While our initial studies focused solely on pesticide fate and effects in ditch systems, current active Unit research includes nutrient mitigation, mathematical modeling efforts, microbial diversity, bioassessments, biofilms, and plant physiology - all within the banks of vegetated drainage ditches.
Through collaborative efforts based on our research, the state of California has granted the use of vegetated agricultural drainage ditches as an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP)-approved practice. Farmers and landowners can utilize this practice with cost-sharing conservation programs offered through the state NRCS office. If you would like more information on this practice or a specification requirements sheet, please click on the links below.
In 2005, collaborative partner Dr. Jerry Farris at Arkansas State University constructed a "ditch farm" on the ASU campus to allow for repeated small-scale field simulations to enhance drainage ditch research. Multiple experiments have examined the effects of low-grade weirs on nutrient mitigation by vegetated ditches. Additional experiments have studied for potential effects of vegetation maintenance (mowing) on nutrient retention in ditches both in the summer and winter. ASU doctoral students have also modified studies for stream metabolism evaluations to the ditch setting, resulting in some of the first established ditch metabolism research in agricultural settings. The strong partnership between the WQERU and Arkansas State University collaborators continue to foster innovative studies while supporting STEM research, particularly among underrepresented groups.