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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Crop yield evaluation under controlled drainage in Ohio, United States

item Ghane, Ehsan
item Fausey, Norman - Norm
item Shedekar, Vinayak
item Piepho, Hans-peter
item Shang, Yuhui
item Brown, Larry

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/5/2012
Publication Date: 11/20/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Ghane, E., Fausey, N.R., Shedekar, V.S., Piepho, H., Shang, Y., Brown, L.C. 2012. Crop yield evaluation under controlled drainage in Ohio, United States. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 67(6):465-473.

Interpretive Summary: Drainage water management is a new practice developed to reduce the delivery of soluble nutrients from agricultural fields into streams. Farmer acceptance of the new practice has been slow because the farmer's perceive that there is no return on the cost of installing the practice. In order to determine if there is a crop yield benefit, the practice was installed and operated on seven farms in Ohio for 3 years in a side-by-side comparison with conventional, unmanaged drainage. Results indicate modest crop yield increases of 7% for corn and 3.5% for soybean. This information is important for NRCS, for growers, and for the drainage industry.

Technical Abstract: Drainage water management (NRCS Practice Code 554) is an important agricultural water management practice for reducing nitrate loading to surface water across the Midwest US. There may also be a positive crop yield benefit which could add incentive for adoption of the practice. Results from a three year demonstration project conducted in Ohio were used to evaluate the effects of drainage water management on crop yield. Each of the seven demonstration farms had two zones; one with the subsurface drainage outlet always open and allowed to drain freely to the depth of the drains, and the other with the subsurface drainage outlet elevation raised, except during planting and harvesting periods, to manage the depth of drainage (i.e., controlled drainage or drainage water management). Thus a side-by-side comparison between conventional subsurface drainage and drainage water management was performed. Both zones at a farm had similar topography, cropping and nutrient management, etc, Results indicated that drainage water management significantly improved corn (Zea maize L.) andsoybean (Glycine max[L.] Merr.) yield by 7.0% and 3.6% on average in 5 out of 6, and 7 out of 8 site years, respectively, over three growing seasons. Results also suggested higher yield advantage with corn than soybean. In sloping fields, drainage water management had an influence up to a certain elevation in the field beyond which it did not have any effect. This implied that drainage water management is most suitable for relatively flat fields. Overall, the crop yield benefit is variable and may be related to the topography of the field, the amount and timing of precipitation as well as type of crop being grown; corn or soybean. This study demonstrated the drainage water management practice, and provided guidance to increase crop yield while maintaining sound conservation practices. Continued evaluation and expanded research is warranted.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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