Research Report 1.8

 Effect of Controlled Drainage/Subirrigation on Tile Drainage Water Quality and Crop Yields at The Field Scale

Dr. Chin Tan, Harrow Res. Station,
Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Harrow, ONT, N0R 1G0
COESA Report No.:  RES/MAN-008/97

Objectives & Expected Outputs
Executive Summary
Table of Contents
Publications Associated with the Project

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Objectives and Expected Outputs
Objectives:
  1. To determine economic benefits of the CD/SI at the farm scale to the farmer;
  2. To provide a field scale dataset for scaling up models calibrated at the plot scale (from Great Lakes Water Quality Study, Harrow);
  3. To add further information on water quality within existing conventional and no-till monitored watersheds established in the SWEEP program;
  4. To study the partitioning of nutrient losses between the tile drains and groundwater for a CD/SI system at field scale.
Expected Outputs: This study will provide on-farm demonstrations of the advantages of Controlled Drainage/Subirrigation systems to the farmer from an economic viewpoint, as well as from a nutrient management/water quality viewpoint.
Type: Fed. Government, In-House                      
Spending Profile: 94-95: $88.1 K, 95-96: $50.2 K,  96-97: $52.1 K,  Total: $190.4 K
Status: Available Summer 1997

 

Executive Summary

 Controlled Drainage System

Installing a Controlled Drainage System Pipe

Diagrammatic representation of a CD System (above).


Installing vertical stand pipes in a Controlled Drainage System (left)

Controlled drainage and subirrigation have been recommended as a sustainable agricultural management practice. Controlled drainage regulates tile discharge to provide storage of rainfall and minimize tile discharge losses of nitrogen and other agricultural chemicals.

Stored water and nitrate can also be used by the crop during dry periods in the growing season which would otherwise leach from the crop root zone. Controlled drainage combined with subirrigation have been shown to improve corn and soybean yields. The system however needs to be evaluated at the farm scale for its impacts on sustainable agriculture and environmental quality. A large farm scale evaluation of this new water management system on producer land raises farmer awareness and acceptance of these innovative technologies. In Southwestern Ontario, three field scale "on-farm" demonstration sites were established in cooperation with three producers. A controlled drainage (CD) system was established on two clay loam sites in a paired watershed (no-tillage versus conventional tillage), whereas a controlled drainage and subirrigation (CDS) system was established on a sandy loam site. The objectives of the study were to provide on-farm demonstrations of controlled drainage and subirrigation systems, and to determine their effect on crop yields and environmental benefits.

On two clay loam sites, soil structure, organic matter content and water storage in the soil profile were improved with no-tillage (NT) compared to conventional tillage (CT). No-tillage also increased earthworm populations. No-tillage was found to have higher tile drainage volume and nitrate loss which were attributed to an increase in soil macropores from earthworm activity. The controlled drainage system (CD) reduced nitrate loss in tile drainage water by 14% on CT site and 29 % on NT site compared to the corresponding free drainage system (DR) from May, 1995 to December, 1996. No-tillage farming practices are definitely enhanced by using a controlled drainage system for preventing excessive nitrate leaching through tile drainage. Average soybean yields for CT site were about 12 to 14% greater than the NT site in 1995 and 1996. However, both CT and NT treatments had little effect on soybean yields, between free drainage and controlled drainage systems in 1995 and 1996 due to extremely dry growing seasons.

On a sandy loam site, the controlled drainage and subirrigation (CDS) system reduced flow weighted mean nitrate concentration in tile drainage water by 31% and total nitrate loss by 24% compared to the free drainage (DR) system from May, 1995 to December, 1996. The controlled drainage and subirrigation system increased marketable tomato yields by 11% in 1995. The average marketable tomato yields were 58.4 t ha-1 for DR system and 64.9 t ha-1 for CDS system. The CDS system also increased corn yields by 64% in 1996. The average corn yields were 6.7 t ha-1 for DR system and 11.0 t ha-1 for CDS system. Thus, the CDS system effectively reduced total nitrate loss and improved yields of both processing tomatoes and grain corn on a sandy loam soil.

 

Table of Contents

  1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  2. INTRODUCTION

  3. MATERIALS AND METHODS

    3.1 Experimental sites

    3.2 Controlled drainage and subirrigation systems

    3.3 Data collection

    3.4 Agronomy

    3.5 Climatic measurement

  4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

    4.1 Effect of tillage and controlled drainage on soil structure and tile water quality on two clay loam sites (Chevalier and Shanahan Farms).

    4.2 Effect of controlled drainage and subirrigation on crop yield and tile water quality on a sandy loam site (Bicrel Farm).

  5. CONCLUSIONS

  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  7. REFERENCES

 

Publications Associated with the Project

Scientific Publications:

Tan, C. S., Drury, C. F., Soultani, M., Ng, H. Y. F., van Wesenbeeck, I. J., Gaynor, J. D. and Welacky, T. W.1998. Effect of controlled drainage and subirrigation on soil structure and tile drainage nitrate loss at the field scale. Wat. Sci. Tech. (In press).

Tan, C. S., Drury, C. F., Soultani, M., van Wesenbeeck, I. J., Ng, H. Y. F., Gaynor, J. D. and Welacky, T. W. 1996. Effect of controlled drainage/subirrigation on tomato yield and water quality. Acta Horticulturae 449: 327-333.

 Technical Reports:

Tan. C. S., Drury, C. F., Soultani, M., Ng, H. Y. F., van Wesenbeeck, I.J., Gaynor, J. D. and Welacky, T. W. 1996. Effect of tillage and controlled drainage on soil structure and tile water quality at the field scale. Proceedings of the Eastern Canada Soil Structure Workshop: 157-173.

Tan, C. S.; Drury, C. F., Soultani, M., Ng, H. Y. F., van Wesenbeeck, I.J., Gaynor, J. D. and Welacky, T. W. 1997. Effect of controlled drainage on soybean yield and water quality under no-tillage and conventional tillage systems at the field scale. ASAE Paper 97- 2057, ASAE, St.Joseph, MI.

Tan, C. S., Drury, C. F., Soultani, M., van Wesenbeeck, I. J., Ng, H. Y. F., Gaynor, J. D. and Welacky, T. W. 1998. Controlled drainage and subirrigation effects on crop yield and water quality. Proceeding of the 7th annual Drainage Symposium: 676-683.

 


 

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