As part of UW Discovery Farms’ newest project focused on tile drainage and soil health, the program will partner with farmers and local resources in Brown, Kewaunee-southern Door, Manitowoc and Shawano Counties. Site selection is underway and data collection will begin this fall.
“There are a lot of farmers wanting to do the right thing for water quality, but we have as many questions as we have answers,” explained Aaron Pape, UW Discovery Farms tile drainage education coordinator. “This project will be able to couple management information with on-farm water quality data to identify farming practices that reduce nutrient losses to tile drains. We also want to see how soil health influences nutrient movement to tiles.”
Working with so many farmers in such a small area is a new approach for the program. Monitoring sites will include one, centrally located site in each county that will have intensive edge-of-field monitoring and several surrounding satellite sites where periodic grab sampling will take place. Results from grab sampling sites will then be related back to intensive sites.
“We want to increase the opportunities to partner with farmers and create a network of information sharing between farmers and researchers centered around tile drainage and water quality,” stated Eric Cooley, UW Discovery Farms co-director. “We’ve had to turn down so many farmers in the past because edge-of-field monitoring is too expensive to have on every field. This project will provide additional monitoring options, which means a greater number of farmers using data and connecting to more local resources to identify feasible management strategies to protect water quality. Strategies that are practical and have a foundation in local data.”
Although there are still unanswered questions surrounding nutrient loss from tile drained land in Wisconsin, UW Discovery Farms does have resources that provide some first steps to reducing nutrient loss. Pape will act not only as the farmer contact for the new tile project, he will also refine and develop additional educational resources for farmers and advisors throughout the project. Current tile drainage resources are available on the Discovery Farms website.
The tile drainage project is funded through the Conservation Innovation Grants program from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. UW Discovery Farms and the Discovery Farms Minnesota program are both implementing the project. For more detailed information about the grant visit the Ag Water Exchange blog.
For more information about tile drainage educational materials or the Tile Drainage Project contact Aaron Pape at firstname.lastname@example.org or 920.366.2194.