Four tile contractors were installing innovative drainage tile at Huronview Demonstration Farm near Clinton on June 15, and 350 people came out to see it.
Farmers, drainage contractors and members of the public attended the Drainage Innovation Field Day.
Visitors came from across Southwestern Ontario and from other parts of Canada as well as from the United States to take part in the day.
The day included field tours on wagons, workshops, soil and water education activities, and an industry trade show.
Attendees included the Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman, Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb, along with municipal representatives and those representing farm, drainage and conservation groups.
The event was run by Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association.
The association has a 15-year agreement with the county to farm on the 47-acre Huronview Demo Farm field with cover crops, no-till, and best practices.
“We knew we needed to invest in field drainage there in order to control erosion and we took this opportunity to try the most innovative system out there,” said Doug Walker, association president. “By partnering with Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority we’re able to use it for research.”
Organizers thanked the hundreds of people who attended as well as all the funding partners and other partners in the project and the volunteers who organized and ran the day.
“It is an unprecedented partnership,” said project co-ordinator Melisa Luymes. “We brought agricultural, drainage, and environmental stakeholders together to align on innovation and research to improve soil and water quality.”
It was the first time in Ontario that controlled drainage has been installed on a slope, according to Luymes.
An Illinois-based drainage design company, AGREM, made the plans for the site and the designers, Jeremy and Bob Meiners, worked with the contractors and presented their work to the crowd on June 15.
Drainage is essential for farming, but it must be well designed to reduce the potential for impacts downstream, according to Luymes.
“Essentially, we’re trying to ‘shut off’ drainage systems with underground control gates at certain times of the year,” she said. “It works on flat fields in Ontario, but the key to making it work on a slope is that lateral tiles need to be installed on contour at a very precise grade. Conventional tile lines usually run straight, but these curve around the field. It is quite a sight.”
The demonstration farm site features a side-by-side-by-side plot of contoured and controlled drainage, conventional drainage, and an area that remains undrained.
Water quality and quantity will be measured, along with yield and soil data.
The site also features a research plot comparing 15-foot and 30-foot tile spacing and a demonstration of surface drainage with terraces and a grassed waterway.
The workshops at the drainage demo day featured speakers including Kirsten Grant (University of Waterloo); Sid Vander Veen (Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario); Lynne Warriner and McKenzie Smith (Fertilizer Canada); and Dr. Jeremy Meiners (AGREM).
In the soil pit, agricultural experts Anne Verhallen, Peter Johnson and Ross Wilson showed participants how field drainage works and the importance of soil health for water infiltration.
The drainage innovation project was funded and supported by dozens of partners, including the Huron County Clean Water Project, the Land Improvement Contractors of Ontario, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority.
This project was also funded in part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.