Improving Agricultural Sustainability through Drainage Water Management Practices

2007 Annual Report for GNC06-066

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jane Frankenberger
Purdue University

Improving Agricultural Sustainability through Drainage Water Management Practices


The role of drainage water management in the improvement of yield, and the reduction in nitrate and water loss from fields is being explored at several research centers across the continental US. To help assess the role of controlled drainage paired-field studies were implemented on three farms in Indiana. On these private farms we installed monitoring wells, rain gauges, tile stage sensors and flow meters to capture the impact of drainage water management on water table depth, flow and nitrate loss.

In 2007 extensive data was collected for each research site, and additional flow sensors were added to support existing measurements. Data from this research was presented at the 2007 annual conference for the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). Several collaborations were forged with interested parties that facilitated the addition of another research unit, additional sensors, and increased discussion on controlled drainage and the results of research projects across several states.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The short-term outcomes of this project are to assess the impact of drainage water management on increasing crop available water, reducing nitrate loss and reducing tile outflow from drained fields, through paired-field studies on three farms in Indiana.

The intermediate-term outcomes are that the knowledge gained will:
(1) enable farmers to make more informed decisions on whether or not the adoption of the practice would be profitable for them, and
(2) enable federal, state, local, and non-governmental soil conservation and water quality organizations to make decisions about supporting drainage water management as a best management practice.

The long-term outcomes, which are unlikely to be achieved during the short time scale of this project, are that farmers will adopt the practice (if it is determined to be successful at increasing yield and promoting improved water quality), and that as a result nitrate loss to surface water from drained fields will be reduced.


The methodology for the statistical analysis of data was finalized and is currently being applied to analyze differences in water table depth between paired fields. DRAINMOD simulation of water table depth and flow were conducted for one site. The calibration was completed for three water table depth observation wells and flow. Rating curves for flow measurement are currently being developed for each site using data obtained from additional flow measuring devices coupled with measured stage. Preliminary results from this study were presented at the 2007 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) international conference in Minneapolis, MN.

Future work includes the continued development of rating curves, completion of statistical analysis for data, completion of DRAINMOD simulations and preparation of papers for publication.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Assessing the impact of drainage water management on plant available water, nitrate loss and reducing tile outflow will be determined when final analysis is completed.


Jane Frankenberger

[email protected]
Professor snd Extension Specialtist
Agricultural And Biological Engineering
Purdue University
225 S. University Street
W. lafayette, IN 47907
Office Phone: 7654941194