Automated Drainage Water Management for Improved Precision, Yield, and Water Quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,995.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Twin Cedar Ag
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
Project Leader:
Chris Breeding
Twin Cedar Ag


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. annual), soybeans


  • Crop Production: drainage systems, nutrient cycling, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance

    Proposal summary:

    Water management in agricultural systems is vital for long-term resiliency as it is the cornerstone of agricultural soil health, enables proper timing of planting and harvest, and increases yields.  Drainage water management (DWM) is a practice that allows the farmer to dictate the timing and volume of drainage to optimize crop yields and reduce water quality impacts.   Traditionally,  DWM is completed through manual adjustment of control gates in a water control structure.  Recent advancements allow for automated DWM (ADWM). ADWM affords easier, real-time control of the timing of water discharge from tile systems, does it remotely without the producer having to physically manage water control gates in the field, and provides for greater precision in the timing of management actions. This project is simple in that it will compare a manual DWM system to an automated DWM system to better understand if the automated DWM ability to provide more precise management has positive yield impacts, improves water quality, and retains more water volume.  Outreach will be conducted via annual field days to disseminate results and discuss DWM.  In the Chesapeake Bay watershed there 316,000 acres that could benefit from DWM and in the Midwest 11.9 million acres could benefit from DWM.  The Chesapeake Bay Program credits DWM with 30% nitrogen reduction, but agronomic and water quality improvements are only realized when these systems are managed properly.  This makes the assessment of manual DWM and ADWM of utmost importance.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to compare the effectiveness of the Automated Drainage Water Management system versus the Manual Drainage Water Management system. The project also seeks to measure the impact of the DWM on crop growth, aerated soil root zone, nitrogen load reduction and overall water quality impact. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.