Management Practices and Emerging Technologies in Tile Drained Landscapes to Mitigate Sediment and Nutrient Loss


  • Eric Cooley
  • Matt Ruark
  • John Panuska
  • UW Discovery Farm
Project Media

 Subsurface drainage of agricultural land has the ability to improve yields and reduce surface runoff and erosion losses. However, with a reduction in surface runoff, more water infiltrates the soil and percolates through the soil profile. This is of particular importance to farmers, as this water can also transport essential plant nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, out of the root zone. Once nutrients reach the tile drain, they have a direct conduit to surface waters.

Tile-drained agricultural land must be well-managed to reduce the loss of nutrients to surface waters. Nutrient management practices must be carefully followed to minimize the risk of nutrient loss and to maximize fertilizer use efficiency. Additional considerations need to be taken with manure applications on tile-drained land to both minimize nutrient loss and prevent manure entry into tile drains.

There are a variety of best management practices customizable to fit individual cropping systems and various tile-drained landscapes. We have identified twelve key elements that will lead to proper nutrient management on tile-drained land and thus minimize the potential to transmit manure to tile drains.