Guelph, ON–The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) has launched a new partnership through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) program. The project, entitled ‘Controlled Tile Drainage – Calculate Your Benefits’, will partner OSCIA with scientists at the University of Ottawa to research the crop yield benefits of controlled tile drainage.
Controlled tile drainage involves the installation of simple flow control systems at tile drain outlets or designated locations upslope to better manage water flow from fields.
“The research indicates that there may be economic benefits to farmers under specific field conditions”, says Gord Green, President of OSCIA. “Under drought conditions, research has confirmed as high as a 25% increase in corn yield where controlled drainage was used to retain water to better supply the growing crop.”
A significant amount of research has been undertaken by AAFC in cooperation with the South Nation Conservation Authority in the Ottawa Valley. Research shows the benefits from controlled tile drainage vary depending on the crop, amount of rainfall, and timing of rainfall in relation to the stage of crop growth. Under the new partnership, a new tool will be developed to allow extension staff and farmers to better calculate the crop yield benefits of controlled tile drainage under varying conditions.
“Farmers are continually looking for ways to better manage risk”, says Dr. David Lapen, an AAFC scientist working on this research. “If tiles are already installed systematically as a capital investment, relatively little additional expense is required to add a tile flow control structure. However, controlled drainage will work best when employed on field slopes typically less than 1%.” Dr. Lapen also notes positively that, “We have seen recent increases in the adoption of controlled tile drainage in Ontario, in particular eastern Ontario.”
University of Ottawa scientist, Dr. Michael Sawada is confident their on-going research will provide a useful tool to help inform farmer decision-making. “With extremes in weather increasing due to climate change, every competitive edge counts”, says Sawada. “Additionally, controlled drainage can reduce the flow of phosphorus and other nutrients to help protect our water resources”.
The collaborative project runs until the winter of 2018 and OSCIA is committed to assist with developing a practical application for the new tool and informing the industry in the months ahead.
Funding for the ‘Controlled Tile Drainage – Calculate Your Benefits’ project is provided through Growing Forward 2, AgriRisk Initiatives, which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.