Best Practices for Field Drainage
By Megan Wild
As a farmer, you depend on your land to provide you with crops. Your livelihood and survival rely on it. Your job is not easy, and you’re often at the mercy of the elements, most of which you have no control over. However, one aspect of farming you have a little control over is how well your soil drains.
Soil that doesn’t drain properly can have major impacts on your crops, stifling their growth cycle and giving poor yield. But wet soils can also make it difficult for you to conduct your work in the field because the soil can’t support your equipment, thus throwing off your timing for general maintenance of the plants or harvesting.
Good soil for crops has a mix of nutrients and the ability to hold water and organic matter. Loam is the best type of soil to have. With its mix of silt, sand, and clay, it has the perfect balance of everything you need to successfully grow crops. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have such perfect soil.
Even if you aren’t blessed with perfect soil, you can still be successful. Taking time to ensure your soil has the proper ingredients and drains correctly will help you grow crops and could improve crop yields. Below are a few things you can do to help your field drain properly.
1. Conduct a Soil & Field Analysis
One of the best ways to understand exactly what is going on with your soil is to have it analyzed. This will allow you to see exactly how many nutrients are in the soil, along with the pH value and the humus content. It will also help you determine the amount of fertilizer you’ll need to ensure productive crops.
Analyzing your field can also show you whether or not you have dry spots or areas where water pools. Trimble provides a farm drainage solution system which compiles your field data so you can increase crop yields by up to 30%, which makes it worth the investment. Once you’ve determined how your soil drains, you can then make an informed decision on the best methods to improve drainage in the field.
2. Determine Your Drainage Needs
Once you’ve conducted your soil analysis, you can decide what type of drainage system your field needs. Of course, if your soil is incredibly dry and compacted, you’ll need to look into a watering system or irrigation to keep your crops watered.
If you have areas where water pools or doesn’t drain sufficiently, this can have an impact on small plants and how they grow. There are two types of drainage that can be applied to your field.
- Surface drainage: As its name suggests, this type of drainage removes excess water from the surface of your field. It is often done using shallow ditches and sloping your field so the water runs into these drains.
- Subsurface drainage: This drainage system removes excess water from the plants’ roots, which can suffocate the roots and the microorganisms that live in the soil. Too much water can also cause the roots to rot. To remove the water with subsurface drains, deep ditches or pipes are often used.
When deciding what type of drainage system to apply to your field, keep in mind that fixing only one area at a time may lead to issues in other areas, so you need to consider the best way to fix the entire field.
3. Determine What Will Fit Into Your Budget
Having a field that drains properly is important to ensure that you produce healthy, bountiful crops, but drainage systems can be a huge investment. Once you’ve determined what you’ll need to ensure your field drains properly, you’ll need to decide if the amount you spend on the system, both in labor and materials, will give you a return on your investment.
Depending on the size of your field and how much yield you expect to get out of it, there may be more cost-effective ways to ensure your soil has the proper amount of water to ensure plant health and growth. If your soil has poor drainage, there are things you can add to it to help it retain water, including perlite, compost and mulch, in addition to others.
Many different elements go into farming, and having soil that is optimal for growing crops is one of the biggest factors that will determine if you are successful or not. Ensuring your soil has the proper ingredients and drains properly will get you one step closer to producing abundant crops.
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