As a land manager, you’re faced with deciding where to invest drainage resources to maximize yields as well as land value. How do you prioritize which fields are worthy of investment and generate the most return?
On the one hand, installing a good drainage system is one of the most effective methods of increasing farmland productivity. Agronomists tend to rank it #2, just behind adjusting soil pH.
On the other hand, with advances in technology and data collection, we’re quickly learning that the conventional practice of “drain the wettest fields first” doesn’t necessarily yield the greatest return.
That’s why, at Element, we’re aligning the sciences of water management and agronomy. Our H2Onomy analysis brings a level of precision to the water management planning process that’s been missing until now. With Element, you’ll discover precisely where it makes the most sense to invest in drainage solutions.
For more information, contact an Element water management consultant.
Land Manager Witnesses a Stark Contrast When Sound Engineering and Planning is Applied
Curtis Christenson — a family run operation of over 10,000 acres consisting of corn, soybeans, spring wheat, and sugar beets in Saint Thomas, North Dakota.
Lay of the Land
Curtis Christenson has been farming for over 40-years in northeastern North Dakota and within those years moisture is always an obstacle, with excess rains causing damaging effects on crops. Curtis has done extensive research on the benefits of tiling his fields and talked to several companies throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as tiling was becoming a new practice to help manage water issues. At the time, however, it was not a management practice Curtis could put into place due the cost.
With high calcium soil in the majority if their fields, Curtis discovered through his research that tiling would have the ability to lower the pH levels in his fields and potentially increase productivity. Curtis and his son continued to battle on and off years with excess moisture, facing wet spring planting conditions and early summer rains that could create damage to developing crops. The practice and implementation of tiling was seen as an advantage during these times, and seeking a solution with drainage and water management became a priority and an investment worth pursuing.
“I watched as tiling business began to pick up this region years ago, we just weren’t able to afford it at the time.”
– Curtis Christenson
The Ellingson Difference
As the years progressed, Curtis would hear references to Ellingson and their tiling process and approach. Ellingson was gaining a positive reputation in the region for their superior work by other area farmers and growers. Curtis was curious about their approach and process, and gave the local salesperson a call to come out so he could learn more.
Curtis had the area salesperson from Ellingson come out to their farm and was immediately impressed with the increased level of expertise of the Ellingson team. He was surprised and pleased with them utilizing an engineer to generate placement and design. The level of experience and knowledge was elevated considerably with Ellingson compared to the other company used in the past.
This level of skilled professionalism helped Curtis see the enhanced value and service Ellingson was willing to provide him and his operation. Ellingson assessed the fields of interest, used mapping systems, listened to Curtis explain the advantages and weaknesses of the field conditions during the wet season—a vastly different approach than the previous company.
Another unique application that stood out to Curtis when comparing the two tiling companies was that Ellingson did not use a straight grid-line pattern for tile placement, but considered the angle of the field as a factor for the drainage solution. Much thought was taken with where tiling and pumps should be located, allowing Curtis to see the complexity and advantages behind the Ellingson standards, equating to further drainage projects on their operation to several in the near future.
“Ellingson brings its customers a strategic plan to help with drainage concerns with its engineers seeking the best placement for each field scenario.”
Curtis was able to see the great benefits of an engineered plan and approach with the tiling. This integrated service within Ellingson was both impressive and highly effective in demonstrating the benefits and allocation of tile placement in the field.
Not only has the drainage program been a success, with future projects on the horizon, but Curtis is confident the investment has not only increased his overall land value within his operation but also seen vast improvements in crop outputs.
Since the tile system was installed, there has been a 10-15 per bushel increase within soybean tiled fields, and on the sugar beets, outputs have risen by five tons. All this has all equated to a valuable investment with Ellingson that is increasing productivity on Curtis’ farm.
Curtis and his sons are talking with their Ellingson sale representative annually, and as they are financially able, will apply tile to their operation as needed. Farm drainage management has become a priority and a successful investment they have seen bring added-value and profit to their farming operation.
“The Ellingson team accesses all the elements in the field, along with the farmers knowledge of the field, equating to the best end result possible. It is a strategic, highly engineered outline that has resulted in positive crop outputs since installed.”
As Curtis and his sons take on further projects in the year ahead, they have called on Ellingson for help once again. As they forecast the coming years and decide on ways to invest in their operation, drainage has become a vital area were their return on investment has been proven, repeatedly.
“We have several future projects that have been plotted with Ellingson’s engineering team and just awaits our go-ahead, which allows a real turn-key process for us to apply drainage strategies to our farm post-harvest season.”