Sustainable Production in the Upper Midwest Depends on
Adoption of Drainage Water Management
Harmful algal blooms lead to hypoxia in Lake ErieThe unique soil and climate of the Upper Midwest (Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Basins) provide the resources for bountiful agricultural production.
Agricultural drainage (both surface and subsurface drainage) is essential for achieving economically viable crop production and management. Drainage practices alter the hydrology; shortening the travel distance and travel time for infiltrating water to move from the landscape into the stream networks, and increasing the volume of water moving to the streams.
Consequently the water interacts less with the mineral and organic components of the soil profile and there is less opportunity for biological and chemical interactions to process dissolved nutrients carried with the drainage water to the streams.
Historically these drainage systems were managed as free drainage systems allowing all the water that reached the drain to flow freely to the receiving stream. An innovative concept, drainage water management, is the most promising approach for reduction of drainage volume and associated soluble nutrients delivered offsite.
Research and demonstration sites have been initiated throughout Ohio to introduce the concept to farmers and determine operational protocols.