Reduce Water Logging Through Planned Drainage Systems

Precision Agriculture’s Andrew Whitlock speaks about strategies to manage water logging through planned drainage systems.

Water logging is just  that you’ve got an excess of water in that soil profile, and we know that if you’ve got a plant sitting in that situation for more that twenty-four hours we start to get some yield penalties. Precision Ag is a  fantastic for fixing up water logging issues. We can do it through many ways, the most important are elevation.

Understanding Water Movements

We know elevation is critical for understanding water movements across catchments and within paddocks and so by looking at elevation maps, which actually, the data is being captured by farms with two-centimeter auto steer. It’s something that farmers don’t necessarily understand that the data they’re collecting on their tractors can be used to create a contour map which can then go into a drainage plan.

The use of guidance system and in particular the information that sits behind the guidance system is critical. Farmers are driving across their paddock all the time, and they’re collecting information, and so we can use that information. The best data sets ever are the narrowest swath width so the best information information we can get is from sowing or at harvest, and we get that point-based information and we produce whole-farm contour maps.

Farm Contour Maps Help Identify Water Logging Areas

We get our contour map and then we start overlaying them with some biomass maps and yield maps. And so, combining the two, we get a fantastic ability to clearly identify water logging areas. Managing the water on that property and putting some strategic drains through there, using the elevation maps that we’ve captured from our auto steer  systems, and implementing in these drains.

Well there’s now software where we can start just using the natural variation across the paddock or the slope in the paddock, so we can add a minimum from grade that we will accept in that paddock and if we don’t care where the water has to go, as long as it gets off the paddock, then we can use the natural slope in that paddock to enhance those different grades and make sure that there is a minimum grade across the entire paddock that water will move off. And by doing that we can save the amount of soil we need to move by an exponential amount. The other way we can use elevation maps that we’ve collected is to actually changing the whole way where the farm is laid out, and so that’s another big planting tool that we can use in PA. If we can step back, look at a whole farm contour map, and say can we redesign this whole to help improve water movement?

If we can change our layouts to optimize for water management even though we may be taking a compromise hit on the longest run efficiency and it limits the number of drains you actually need to put in just by having improved farm design. The other powerful thing about precision ag is we can actually quantify the issue.

Identify the Economic Impact of Water Logging

Many farmers will know they’ve got water logging occurring on their farm, but they won’t know the economic impact of it, so by using satellite imagery and yield maps, we can start putting some, we can measure area that’s affected by water logging and we can put some economic terms to it so we can identify that water logging may be costing the farmer fifty thousand dollars and a rough idea of putting some drains might be five-thousand, so we know we’ve got a ten-to-one return on investment, and having that information to be able to plan for that and quantify that the cost of water logging is a really power aspect of precision ag.