Submitted by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program:
A Northern New
York Agricultural Development Program project report encourages farmers
to consider the benefits of tile drainage to both crop production and
The research is especially timely as farms
face changes to the environmental standards they are required to meet
and at a time when federal and state funding is available for installing
the tile drainage.
As many states refine their phosphorus management requirements for farm
nutrient management plans, it is critical that the models they use are
based on representative field conditions and sound data, says project
leader Eric Young, research agronomist at W. H. Miner Agricultural
Research Institute, Chazy, NY.
Young estimates the return on investment from installing tile drainage
on farms with slow or very slow permeability is from seven to 12 percent
over five to 10 years.
The goal of the most recent tile drainage research funded by the
farmer-driven NNYADP was to compare phosphorus losses between tile
drained and undrained test plots designed to simulate field-scale
conditions typical of northern NY dairies.
Undrained conditions resulted in greater surface water runoff and phosphorus losses compared to tile drained lots, Young says.
The test plots at the Lake Alice Wildlife Area, Chazy, were managed as
reed canarygrass in 2012-2013 planted to corn in 2014. Tile drainage and
instrumentation was installed during 2012-2013 to capture real-time
changes in both surface and subsurface runoff. Automatic water samplers
track changes in phosphorus concentration and sediment over storm
The 2014 season was a wet year and included two major storms events in
June, another in August, and one large precipitation and snowmelt event
in December for measurement.
The vast majority of runoff that occurred in the tile drained plots was
through the tiles with only three percent of the total runoff volume
occurring as surface water runoff, Young says, and erosion that occurred
from tile drained plots was half that of the undrained plots.
Although the trial size of only two replications limits the ability to
show significant statistical differences, tile drainage showed a clear
advantage in reducing surface water runoff and total phosphorus leaving
The results of this project were presented at the 2014 Southern
Extension and Research Activity 17 meeting in Des Moines, IA; 2014 Soil
Science Society of America meeting in Long Beach, CA; and a University
of Vermont Extension meeting on tile drainage in January 2015 in St.
Given the multiple potential agronomic and environmental benefits of
tile drainage to agricultural producers in Northern New York, and other
regions, there is a critical need to better quantify the environmental
aspects of tile drainage to support cost-effective best management
practices to maximize both economic and environmental crop production
aspects, Young explains.
Miner Institute has received a Northern New York Agricultural
Development Program grant for 2015 to characterize tile drainage water
nutrient concentrations and flow rates for several farms in the NNY
The 2015 project work will assess the relative importance of
nitrate-N and phosphorus in drainage water at different times of year
and compare nutrient concentrations in tile drainage flows to levels in
surface water runoff and any ponded water from the same field.
Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is
supported by the New York State Senate and administered through the New
York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
For a complete list of
NNYADP 2015 projects and results of past projects, visit the website at