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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Quantifying the Effects of Subsurface Drainage on Runoff Water Quality and Soil Trafficability on Sugarcane Land

Authors
item Kornecki, Ted
item Fouss, James
item Southwick Jr, Lloyd

Submitted to: American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 3, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Land grading for surface drainage is the most common practice for draining sugarcane fields in LA. The water quality of runoff from sugarcane fields is a major concern for growers, because of the potential of polluting downstream water resources such as steams, rivers, lakes, bayous, and wetland areas. A new field experiment is being installed on LSU's Ag Center Sugarcane Research Station near St. Gabriel, LA, to study the effects of using subsurface drainage on sugarcane lands to improve water quality by reducing the losses of fertilizers and pesticides carried in runoff. The experiment will have large plots that are surface drained only and others with subsurface drainage. Subsurface drainage of the land reduces runoff during rainstorms because more of the rain can soak into the soil, and therefore the potential of runoff carrying fertilizer and pesticides is also reduced. The study will also determine how much subsurface drainage will improve the soil support (called trafficability) for operating tractors and large equipment, such as cane combines at harvest time. With the wet weather that can often occur in the South during cane harvest season, getting equipment stuck is a common occurrence. Sugarcane yields and productive life of the cane crop can also be increased by subsurface drainage.

Technical Abstract: Surface drainage is the most common practice for removing excess water from sugarcane fields in LA. The water quality of runoff from sugarcane fields is a major concern for growers, because of the potential of polluting downstream water resources such as steams, rivers, lakes, bayous, and wetland areas. A new field experiment is being installed on LSU's Ag Center Sugarcane Research Station near St. Gabriel, LA, to study the effects of installing subsurface drainage in sugarcane fields to improve runoff water quality by reducing the losses of agrochemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) carried in runoff. The experiment will have large plots that are surface drained only and others with subsurface drainage. Subsurface drainage of the land reduces runoff because more rainfall can infiltrate the soil, thus reducing the potential of runoff carrying agrochemicals that may pollute the environment. The removal of excess soil-water by subsurface drainage will also improve soil trafficability for conducting farm field operations, such as harvesting with heavy cane combine equipment; this potential benefit of drainage will also be studied. Sugarcane yields and productive life of the cane stubble crop can also be increased by subsurface drainage. An economic analysis of the benefits of drainage will be made.

Last Modified: 12/17/2014
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