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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Alternative Environmental Benefits of Agricultural Drainage Ditches

Authors
item Cooper, Charles
item Moore, Matthew
item Bennett, Erin - FORMER ARS EMPLOYEE
item Smith Jr, Sammie
item Farris, Jerry - ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: International Society Of Limnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 5, 2002
Publication Date: December 1, 2002
Citation: COOPER, C.M., MOORE, M.T., BENNETT, E.R., SMITH JR, S., FARRIS, J.L. ALTERNATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF AGRICULTURAL DRAINAGE DITCHES. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF THEORETICAL AND APPLIED LIMNOLOGY. 2002. v. 28. p. 1678-182.

Interpretive Summary: In producing food and fiber for our nation, American agriculture must till the soil and use pesticides and additive nutrients to economically produce their products. Thus, a continuing challenge to farmers is crop production with minimum adverse environmental impact. Farmers work to achieve least possible impact to receiving waters by management strategies (best management practices) that conserve our resources and reduce the possibility of downstream water quality impacts. In this research we expanded the best management practice concept past the edge of a farm field into a common agricultural feature, the drainage ditch. Often viewed solely for their capacity to remove water from farmland, vegetated ditches can serve to significantly reduce pesticides found in storm runoff. From 60-99% of a herbicide and two insecticides were transferred to the ditch plants during simulated runoff events. This knowledge can benefit farmers in their efforts to provide environmental protection. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will find this information helpful in preparing farm plans that minimize the possibility of adverse water quality impact. Vegetated drainage ditches offer low cost additional watershed protection in combination with other best management practices.

Technical Abstract: Agricultural drainage ditches serve as ecological continuums between production acreage and receiving surface waters (e.g. rivers, streams, lakes). Often viewed solely for their capacity to remove water from farmland, ditches serve as vital areas for transfer and transformation of potential contaminants. Research conducted on drainage ditches located within the Mississippi Delta Management Systems Evaluation Area in Mississippi, USA, have indicated that 60 to 99% of atrazine (triazine herbicide), lambda-cyhalothrin (pyrethroid insecticide), and bifenthrin (pyrethroid insecticide) were transferred to the plant material 1 to 3 hours following the initiation of a simulated runoff event. Vegetated drainage ditches offer additional low-cost watershed protection when used in combination with other best management practices. This research promotes the holistic treatment concept of incorporating processes in the field, at the edge-of-field, in the transitional flow zone, and the receiving waterbody.

Last Modified: 12/28/2014
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