Mention farm drainage and the environment in the same sentence and you’ll likely end up in a discussion on the pros and cons of moving water for the purpose of agriculture production.
In the final episode of RealAgriculture’s Talking Tile series, Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario executive director Mel Luymes looks at the benefits of drainage and why the practice also draws criticism.
“On one hand, drainage is a best practice for the environment because it improves yields and efficiency – anytime we can grow more on less land, we can preserve other set-aside land for natural habitat and the like,” says Luymes. But those who find fault with the practice most often point to fertilizer and nutrient loss.
That conversation typically centres around nitrogen and phosphorus and how much is leaving fields through drainage tile. In the video, Luymes explores both sides of the drainage debate and how a range of strategies, including 4R stewardship (right source, rate, time and place), cover crops and tillage practices can mitigate nutrient movement.
Luymes discusses how drainage practices such as using control gates to manage outflows of water and nutrients from fields can make both resources available to crops to better utilize and produce higher-yielding crops. She also emphasizes the need for drainage innovation and the need for a commitment from all stakeholders — from farmers to contractors, researchers, regulators and governments — to continue to improve drainage systems. (See the video below.)
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