Getting water off fields

Anne Verhallen, Soil Management Specialist, OMAFRA, Ridgetown

It’s been quite a few years since the last spring with this amount of rainfall. Surface ditches can help in the short term (see Figure 1). However, if they work well a lot of soil is being lost from the field and the ditch bank has been cut through and destabilized.

Figure 1: The high edges on this surface ditch may interfere with water moving quickly into the trench and reduce its effectiveness.
Figure 1: The high edges on this surface ditch may interfere with water moving quickly into the trench and reduce its effectiveness.

While you are waiting for fields to dry, take a moment to mark the problem areas. There are a number of water control devices that can be installed to reduce the standing water problem in the future while protecting the ditch bank.  Consider:

Perforated Riser Pipe (Hickenbottom is one brand) – similar to a catch basin, this structure should be connected to a dedicated tile line that empties in the ditch. Perforated riser pipe will pond the water for a short period of time (sizing of pipe will determine this – most are sized to pond for about 24 hours), allowing sediment to drop out of the water. The sediment can be scraped away later. Often a berm may be needed to help capture the water. This system still depends on having an outlet for the water – if the ditch is full there is nowhere for the water to go. Also – note where the low spot is. A drop inlet on the edge of the wet area — or installed where it is convenient and won’t get in the way — but not in the center of the low spot, often won’t work (see Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2: This riser pipe will not effectively drain this ponded area.
Figure 2: This riser pipe will not effectively drain this ponded area.
Figure 3: These riser pipes are well-placed to drain this low area.
Figure 3: These riser pipes are well-placed to drain this low area.

Rock Chute Spillway – basically stabilizes the bank where the water flow naturally breaks through. Usually 5 to 6 feet wide and 10 feet long for simple ditches. It requires filter cloth and quarry stone to hold the soil. (Quarry stone is different – the rough not rounded edges means that the rocks will roll less and wedge in more tightly).

The cost for these structures varies greatly; check with local contractors for pricing.

Both of the above types of structures will help to reduce ditch bank erosion while removing water from the field quickly.

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