Purdue University | Indiana CCA

Proceedings 2007

Indiana Certified Crop Adviser Conference


Drainage and the Free Lunch

For the producer, the decision to install or improve a drainage system is a practical one, based on principles of good economics and good husbandry. If the benefits outweigh the associated costs, then drainage makes good sense. However, the cost/benefit analysis is not always cut and dry. The benefits of drainage include better soil aeration, more timely field operations, less flooding in low areas, higher soil temperatures ,less surface runoff, better soil structure, better incorporation of herbicides, and better root development, all leading to increased crop yields. The associated costs include the cost of laterals, the cost of mains, installation costs, and maintenance costs. There may also be other costs, such as increased haulage costs, associated with the increased yield that comes from drainage. More difficult to grasp and to quantify are the hidden costs associated with water quality degradation. All across the Midwest, research is being conducted on management practices that improve drain outflow water quality without adversely affecting crop yield. These should be considered when drainage is being incorporated into an overall farm management plan.


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Shawn ConleyRichard CookeAssociate Professor
University of Illinois

Dr. Richard Cooke is Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at the University of Illinois.  He has degrees from the University of the West Indies, the University of Guelph, and Virginia Tech.  He teaches courses in Drainage and Water Management and Non-point Source Pollution Modeling.  He has an active extension and research program in all aspects of agricultural drainage, including optimization of subsurface drainage systems, conservation drainage, and drainage-related best management practices.