Effect of Optimal Water Management for Sustainable and Profitable Crop Production and Improvement of Water Quality in Red River Valley

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $199,706.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Xinhua Jia
North Dakota State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans, sugarbeets


  • Crop Production: irrigation, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, value added
  • Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, weather monitoring
  • Soil Management: soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Following a wet weather pattern since 1993 in the Red River Valley (RRV), located in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, excess moisture in the farmland has become the most limiting factor for crop production. Subsurface drainage (SSD), a new technology for the RRV, has become a necessary and effective way to remove water, lower the water table and reduce soil salinity. Due to concerns on water quality, especially nitrate losses from the SSD flow, controlled drainage (CD) can be used to reduce the total amount of drainage water and nitrate moving out of the field. Subirrigation (SI), which adds water to the field during high water demand period, can increase crop yield. In addition, the SI will use the ditch water next to the field as the water source so that the phosphorus and sediment load in the surface water can be decreased through the field filtration process. The dual CD and SI system is new to the RRV region, the design used in this project is suitable for the flat topography of the RRV region, and the day to day water management protocol is innovative and has not been studied before. Field experiments with four treatments, undrained (UD), free drainage, CD, and CD+SI, will be conducted at Clay County, MN. Water balance components, such as rainfall, irrigation, evapotranspiration, drainage, surface runoff, and soil moisture changes will be measured. Water quality will be monitored at upper and downstream of the ditch. Sugarbeet, corn, and soybean yields will also be estimated for each growing season. During the project duration, field days, workshops, and evaluation will be conducted annually to demonstrate the project progress. It is expected that more people will be able to use CD and SI following the success of this project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    (1) Optimize water management through a controlled drainage and subirrigation system on a farmer’s production field;
    (2) Compare yield differences between undrained, free drainage, controlled drainage, and controlled drainage plus subirrigation fields;
    (3) Monitor water quality (e.g. nitrate, phosphorus, turbidity, salinity, etc.) and quantity for fields with different water management practices; and
    (4) Estimate the total annual water balance in the undrained, free drained, the controlled drainage, and controlled drainage plus subirrigation fields.

    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.