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Agronomic Crops Network

Ohio State University Extension


Same ol’ Farm Drainage Research? No, Think Future.

Climate projections by climatologists suggest that the Midwest will experience wetter and warmer winters and springs and hotter and drier summers. One estimate suggests that by the end of the century, Ohio’s summers will resemble those of current-day Arkansas and winters will resemble those of current-day North-Carolina.  With more intense rain events delivering larger quantities, producers seem to prefer narrower drain spacing than the traditional designs. Can farmland be over-drained with narrow tile spacing leading to unintended consequences when wet springs turn into dry summers?

State Map

A research team at The Ohio State University has designed and implemented plot experiments that takes OSU’s long-term drainage research a step further and explores how intense drainage in combination with management decisions will impact crop productivity and economics.  The experiment is located at OSU’s Northwest Agricultural Research Station in Hoytville, OH and begins in 2024.  Formerly known as the drainage-tillage-rotation study, the new experimental design maintains the 40-foot tile drain spacing compared to undrained plots and adds 25-foot tile drain spacing treatment.  Additionally, three different tillage treatments will continue (no-till, chisel plot, and strip till) with the addition of a cover crops treatment.  The crop rotation treatment will ensure that corn and soybean are both grown in each year in an alternate rotation. The 3 drainage x 3 tillage x 2 cover crop x 2 crop rotation treatments replicated twice result in 24 subplots. A pseudo-replication within plots will allow for doubling the number of subplots within each treatment combination. In addition to agronomic monitoring, the team plans to monitor the hydrologic water budget in the plots. A mini research grant supported by the Ohio Soybean Council provided seed funding to initiate monitoring of water table, soil moisture, temperature, and electrical conductivity. Additional financial support came from the Virgil Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program at OSU.

The research team will address the following questions with this long-term experiment: How do changes in tile drain spacing influence trafficability in the early growing season as well as soil moisture throughout the growing season? What are the effects of drainage intensity and land management (i.e., tillage type, crop rotation, cover crop) on soil moisture availability, crop stress, crop yield, and economics?        How do these drainage and land management practices affect soil health in the long-term? Are there differences in the prevalence and abundance of soil-borne pathogens (e.g., phytophthora, pythium, rhizoctonia) under different drainage intensity and land management practices? Do foliar diseases differ across these treatments?

Tile Machine

Meet the research team: Dr. Vinayak Shedekar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering at The Ohio State University and serves as the State Extension Specialist for agricultural water management.  Nick Eckel, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator in the Wood County Extension Office. Mr. Eckel has expertise in agronomy and monitoring crop growth monitoring, scouting for pests and diseases, and sampling of soil and tissue samples.  Matt Davis is the manager of the Northwest Agricultural Research Station in Custar, Ohio. He is responsible for conducting farm operations as per the experimental design and measuring the crop yields in each individual research plot.  Wm. Bruce Clevenger, Ohio State University Extension Field Specialist, Farm Management specializes in economic analysis of agronomic systems and drainage treatments.


Authors: Wm. Bruce Clevenger, Vinayak Shedekar, Nick Eckel, Matthew Davis




Crop Observation and Recommendation Network

C.O.R.N. Newsletter is a summary of crop observations, related information, and appropriate recommendations for Ohio crop producers and industry. C.O.R.N. Newsletter is produced by the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team, state specialists at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). C.O.R.N. Newsletter questions are directed to Extension and OARDC state specialists and associates at Ohio State.