January 23, 2014

Miner Institute gets grant to study drainage

CHAZY — Miner Institute has been awarded a $330,000 grant to monitor surface runoff and tile drainage effluent from two cornfields.

The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

The objective of the research is to evaluate the agronomic and water-quality differences between a freely tile-drained cornfield and an adjacent tile-drained cornfield with controlled drainage.

The project will quantify the tradeoff between surface runoff and tile-drainage runoff in the two cornfields managed as either freely drained or control drained.

The first stage of the project will be a two-year period to monitor baseline levels, followed by the implementation of the control-draining treatment on one of the fields.

The two fields will then be continuously monitored for the next four years in order to compare corn-silage yield and quality, water and nutrient fluxes and overall efficiency.

Tile drainage refers to the practice of installing a network of perforated pipes two to four feet below the soil surface to aid in removing excess water from agricultural fields.

It has been a key management practice for more than 100 years, due to its ability to offer multiple agronomic and environmental benefits, according to a release from Miner Institute.

However, under certain conditions, tile drainage may accelerate the loss of certain nutrients, the release said, and site-specific practices may be needed to reduce losses to surface waters. 

Controlled drainage is a management option intended to address the agronomic and environmental concerns of these losses.

Although neighboring Vermont has had an edge-of-field runoff-monitoring program for several years, the project at Miner Institute will be the first one in New York state.

Results will provide important information on the effectiveness of tile drainage as both an agronomic and environmental best management practice under poorly drained conditions, according to Miner Institute Agronomist and Project Leader Eric Young. Project results will also help evaluate New York’s new conservation practice standard for edge-of-field monitoring.


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