Project Details:

Impact of Best Water Management on Soil/Water Quality and Soybean Produduction

Parent Project: This is the first year of this project.
Checkoff Organization:North Dakota Soybean Council
Categories:Water quality & management, Sustainability, Crop management systems
Organization Project Code:QSSB
Project Year:2018
Lead Principal Investigator:Xinhua Jia (North Dakota State University)
Co-Principal Investigators:

Contributing Organizations

Funding Institutions

Information and Results

Comprehensive project details are posted online for three-years only, and final reports indefinitely. For more information on this project please contact this state soybean organization.

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Final Project Results

Updated July 6, 2018:

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Impact of best water management on soil/water quality and soybean production

Xinhua Jia and Thomas Scherer
Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108
June 30, 2017

Soybean is very sensitive to soil moisture and salinity conditions in the field. For the last twenty years, it has been difficult to plant or harvest many fields in the Red River Valley due to wet conditions. To solve this problem, tile drainage was quickly established in the region to remove excess water, reduce the soil salinity, and create critical windows of time for planting and harvesting. However, tile drainage water contains high soluble chemicals, including nitrate and dissolved minerals (salts) that can pollute our streams and lakes. In this study, we used six farm fields, four in Clay County, Minnesota, and two in Richland County, North Dakota, to monitor the nutrients and salts coming out from tile drainage outlets. We also checked the nutrients and salts in the six fields and compared their changes due to tile drainage. Crop yields were also compared in the six fields in order to evaluate the tile drainage impact.

Our results indicated that nitrate nitrogen concentration in the tile drainage water (6.23 ppm) was five times higher than that in the surface drainage ditches (1.16 ppm). With controlled drainage, the nitrate was retained in the field. Phosphorus monitoring showed that both surface and subsurface flows contained phosphorus concentrations that exceeded the water quality standard. A higher amount of salts were found in tile drainage flows, when compared to the surface ditch water. With good water management practices in the field, we can help retain the nitrate and salts in the field in late spring and summer, and improve the water quality in our surface water environment.

Soil salinity is a big concern for many soybean growers because it can cause soybean iron chlorosis and reduce the soybean yield. We monitored the soil salinity changes in the field using soil sampling and salinity maps. Our results clearly indicated that soil salinity was reduced with tile drainage. Soil sampling around the tile drains, however, indicated soil salinity had increased in one location, probably due to over irrigation. A proper water management is definitely needed on salinity affected fields. The biggest benefit to the soybean growers and the soybean industry is to understand that through drainage water management, we can achieve a better yield in the field and maintain a clean water for all citizens in the Red River Valley.

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