The second Drainage Installation Field Day at The Ohio State University at Lima brought out close to 100 farmers, engineers, contractors and researchers from around northwest Ohio and across the state to learn more about the installation of sub-surface drainage tile systems and their modern uses.
Volunteer contractors worked throughout the day to install 27,000 feet of perforated drain pipes across 25 acres at the Ohio State Lima Regenerative Agriculture Farm.
Lima’s regenerative agriculture initiative started in 2020 and aims to provide research and educational opportunities focused on regenerative farming practices. Water management is a big part of that.
"Addressing drainage needs is key to sustain crop production in this region and to ensure the success of regenerative ag practices here on this farm,” said Dr. Vinayak Shedekar, assistant professor of agricultural water management in the department of food, agricultural and biological engineering.
Whereas in the past the main purpose of drainage was to get rid of excess water from soils, today’s farmers need to protect water quality and conserve water to provide for crops during hotter and drier periods of growing season.
“We are getting into a situation where we are installing these systems from a future water management perspective,” said Shedekar. “The biggest changes that I'm seeing is the mindset with which we design the drainage systems and how we manage these systems.”
The work done at the 2023 Drainage Field Installation Day is funded by a grant from Ohio State’s Sustainability Institute, which supports projects that restore the lands, waters and air quality at all the Ohio State campuses and develop research opportunities for faculty and learning opportunities for students. The project is a collaborative effort that includes OSU Extension-Allen County, researchers and educators at the Ohio State University, Ohio Chapter of Land Improvement Contractors of America (OLICA) and their industry partners, and the Allen Soil and Water Conservation District.
“This project represents a real culmination of research, teaching and learning, and community engagement and is a great marriage between ecosystem and humans working together,” said Michael Shelton, associate director of the Sustainability Institute. “This is a great example of the university being able to demonstrate agricultural practices that benefit the planet in a way that will also hopefully benefit those who live off the land.”
Translating what Ohio State researchers are learning both in the fields and in their labs to practical applications provides a powerful tool for Ohio farmers.
“Having a demonstration and research area in northwest Ohio where ecological practices are being tried out gives current and future farmers a chance to see how they could be put into play in their own fields” said Nic Baumer, an Extension educator who was part of the field day organizing team.
The farm at Ohio State Lima is a learning laboratory for farmers to see how regenerative ag can work in the real world and how conservation practices can improve outcomes both on individual farms and collectively.
“Adopting a regenerative farming practice has a lot more to do with learning about your own soils, learning about the needs of your own soils and trying to tweak your operation in a way that fits your needs,” Shedekar said. “That is what we are trying to promote here – a farm, a model farm where we will try different things, have people come and take a look at those and then learn from what we have done.”
Water management is just one part of a long-term project designed to protect and rejuvenate the health of the soil on campus. The new tiling joins a similar project from 2022 that included installation of a saturated buffer, which is considered a conservation drainage practice that helps improve water quality by reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus losses from agricultural fields. In 2024, drainage day participants will be able to see another conservation practice when a drainage water recycling system that incorporates a retention pond and irrigation system is installed.
Project sponsors: Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program, Marathon Pipeline LLC, US Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio EPA.