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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Sustainable Production in the Upper Midwest Depends on
Adoption of Drainage Water Management

Harmful algal blooms lead to hypoxia in Lake Erie

The unique soil and climate of the Upper Midwest (Upper Mississippi and Great Lakes Basins) provide the resources for bountiful agricultural production.


DWM research/demo site layout examples

As agricultural producers strive to meet the demands of producing grain and biomass feedstocks for food, feed, renewable energy generation, and alternative fuels, more production will be required from each unit of land.

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.


Drainage water management concept

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.


DWM research/demo sites in Ohio

Research and demonstration sites have been initiated throughout Ohio to introduce the concept to farmers and determine operational protocols. 

Last Modified: 8/13/2016
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