Illinois Row Crops

Removing Ditches & Improving Drainage for Increased Farm Efficiency and Yields

Location: Illinois, USA
Field Area: 95 acres or 38 hectares
Irrigation Method: none or rainfed
Crops: corn and soybean

"The landforming has probably made me more money on that ground than anything I have ever done."

Stan Holseapple
Holseapple Farms

Figure 1. Satellite image of the field showing ditches cutting through the field.

Problem

This field was farmed in seven different sections because there were deep ditches running throughout the field. These ditches can be seen in the aerial photograph (Fig. 1) and the ponding map (Fig. 2) below.

Having ditches cutting through the field decreases efficiency as farm machinery could not pass through them.

Even with all the ditches installed, the field still did not drain well.

Figure 2. Existing Topography (left) and Existing Drainage Analysis (right). Drag the slider left or right to view each.

Solution

As the field have ditches splitting the field into smaller blocks, everything was designed together to tie up the drainage and remove all infield ditches.

An OptiSurface 4Way Design with a minimum slope of 0.05% and some smoothing was used to eliminate ponding and fill up the ditches. Subzones were added to reduce smoothing on hilly areas to reduce heavy cuts.

Figure 3. Existing Topography (left) and Proposed Topography (right). Drag the slider left or right to view each.

Figure 4 shows the Cut/Fill Map. Most of the cuts are there to fill in the ditches. The earthworks required was very low at only 64 yd³/ac.

Figure 4. Cut/Fill Map.

Figure 5 shows how water flows through the Proposed Topography and exit the field at the boundaries.

Figure 5. Proposed Flow Paths.

Conclusion

This example shows how OptiSurface can be used to solve drainage problems with minimal earthworks.

Removing ponding issues allow timely farm operations and eliminating the need for ditches increased farm machinery efficiency. When combined with the increased yield, this results in a step improvement in profit.

Stan was very happy saying:

The field is now far more efficient to farm and the yield increased tremendously! In 2019, this field went from my worst to my best, with soybean yielding over 70 bushels per acre.


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