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Good Drainage is Key to Better Soil Health

3 April 2020

Ensuring that your drainage system is working is a key element in maintaining soil health.

Drainage systems have a limited lifespan and need annual assessment, maintenance and investment to ensure they are working effectively.  Any land management operation that is conducted on saturated land will cause compaction – that will reduce yield and cause soil erosion which in turn effects a direct reduction in soil health.

Remember that land drainage is a system that consists of more than just land drains.  Every part of the process, including ditches and other downstream drainage features, need to work properly for it to be an effective drainage system.

All outfalls should be located and cleared, and this may require clearing vegetation and removing silt in ditches.  Following rainfall, all ditches and outfalls should be seen to be running in order to be confident that the system is operational.

Any indication of blockages should be identified and recorded along with any signs of ochre formation.  For land drains, jetting can be effective when blockages are found early, but if left more than one season the drain may have to be dug up and cleared or replaced.

The key messages are that the cropping systems we use and yield that we expect are all dependant on good land drainage,  and the health of our soils will be deteriorated if we fail to identify an issue prior to trafficking and cultivating our land.

Dr Bill Crooks for the Farm Advisory Service

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