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MI field day features farm drainage from installation to nutrient management

May 25, 2012  by Manure Manager

The 2012 Farm Drainage and Nutrient Management Field Day will feature onsite subsurface drain designs and installations.

The 2012 Farm Drainage and Nutrient Management Field Day sponsored by the Michigan Land Improvement Contractors Association and Michigan State University Extension will be held Aug. 1 and 2, 2012, in south-central Michigan.

The events will feature various onsite sub-subsurface drain designs and installations, GPS surveying, water control devices and bioreactors. Complementing these demonstrations will be a focus on manure land application management systems that recycle both fertilizer and manure nutrients.

“Everyone knows that drainage increases yields,” states Natalie Rector, Michigan State University Extension educator. “It also decreases ponding and runoff, and in doing so reduces surface erosion that carries sediment and nutrients offsite. We want to take advantage of this benefit without consequently losing nutrients through the soil profile and through the drains.”

Taking a two-pronged approach to manure, this event will demonstrate first how to customize management systems on your farm to avoid manure and/or nutrients reaching subsurface drain tiles and second, in the event that it does happen, what systems could be put in place to keep it from doing environmental harm.


Subsurface tile drainage occurs in conjunction with very unique and uncontrollable forces – soil types and precipitation – that interact and create a new set of circumstances every day. Only the farmer in charge of manure hauling can adjust on the go to these conditions.

“Farmers have told me that dropping a field cultivator across the field to disrupt macro pores, surface applying liquid manure and then shallow incorporation to control odor is a system to avoid manure reaching tile lines, along with monitoring manure application rates,” states Rector. This is especially important as manure has becomes more liquid.

“This event is to help farmers, custom applicators, consultants, and anyone else, learn more about the dynamic system but most importantly, to find ideas that will work on their farm, under their system.”

Blaine Baker, a dairy farmer, and Tom VanWagner from NRCS, will discuss a unique system that Baker has been operating for more than seven years during the educational sessions. Baker’s goal was to find a way to deal with milk house wash water and runoff by maximizing its use during the driest part of the growing season. Liquid waste from the dairy operation goes to a two-celled constructed wetland for initial treatment and then is sent through a subirrigation system covering about 20 acres of farmland. The system has resulted in increased crop yields while effectively treating dairy wastewater. This system is not right for all soil types or farming systems, but for Baker, it has been a win-win solution and has allowed him to continue his no-till cropping system.

Dr. Larry Brown from Ohio State University, and Dr. Richard Cooke, University of Illinois, will discuss their specialties of water control devices and in-field bioreactors. Frank Gibbs from Ohio will show a unique way to look at soil pore space with a smoking tile line demonstration and Tim Harrigan from Michigan State University will demonstrate seeding cover crops in the manure applicator.

Various vertical tillage and other types of tillage will run over wheat stubble to show soil disruption and crop residue management.

The exhibitors will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tile drainage installation demos and exhibits will run continuously and educational sessions will be repeated each day at 10:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

The 2012 Farm Drainage and Nutrient Management Field Day will be held at 5211 W. Chicago Road, Jonesville, MI 49250. The field day is free and will repeat events over the course of both days. More detailed times and events can be found at For more information, contact Natalie Rector, or 269-967-6608.


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