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Jan 09

Tillage of Change

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 8:05 AM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 1/8/2018 

Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

  • JD14 (Judson Twp.)  There will be an informal landowner meeting on Thursday, January 11.  Landowners and those that are affected by this system should have received notice of this meeting with time and location details.


Project Updates:

  • No project updates at this time.  All projects are shut down for the winter season.  Spring will be a very busy time for drainage as we will have two, possible three, major projects going in the spring. 


Drainage Minutes:

Most all outside activities are at a stand still until things warm up.  We finished televising almost all our systems that I had on my list for this fall/winter.  Outside repair projects are still going on if they are small repairs with easy shallow digging.  All other projects and repairs will have to wait until next spring.


Tillage Guidance:

I came across some interesting reading about tillage.  The study incorporates research from two different states and universities including the University of Minnesota Extension Service and also North Dakota State University (NDSU).  With my background in agriculture and my current position in drainage, it’s interesting to me how the two directly effect each other. 

This new tillage guide gives a good background on tillage and practices before ultimately showing and discussing the advantages of newer conservation tillage practices.  Thirteen years of research went into this information, including information from multiple locations and data on weather patterns.  Many people disregard some of these University-type studies, mostly because of their small “modeled” size.  However, these tests and trials were all performed on real farms using real commercial size equipment, for real life results.

The tillage guide challenges decades of theories of tillage.  Theories like tillage is absolutely necessary to keep up yields.  The guide challenges those older ideas and perceptions by asking the question why not?  Seed and hybrids are constantly changing, and chemicals and seed treatments have changed.  Fertilizer - even the way we use fertilizer - has drastically changed, so why not tillage practices? 

The notion always was that a nice uniform area of blended soil and seed bed area is needed for optimum yields.  The guide challenges that idea by showing undisturbed microbes and organic matter in the soil is more important than soil uniformity.  The organic matter and microbes that live in the upper layers of the soil profile are very important to water and nutrient holding capacities.  Much of today's tillage practices often displace these microbes and organic matter and often leave a layer of compaction, which presents a whole different set of challenges for proper root development.

The guide discusses an economic advantage to using conservation tillage practices.  The example is a two-year rotation using disk-ripping and chisel-plowing as the tillage practices.  The study shows a significate monetary savings of $10 - $20 per acre by going to a vertical tillage or strip tillage system without sacrificing yield.

Why is this subject part of a drainage blog?  Because one of our biggest issues is water quality.  Conservation tillage is one tool in our toolbox towards cleaning up the sediment and nutrients that are overtaking our water systems and lakes.  We (Blue Earth County Drainage) try to incorporate water quality practices in every major project we do.  Cover crops and conservation tillage are just a couple of the ways we can help to clean up our waters. 

Change is not always an easy or instant thing to do.  Through perseverance and education on the importance of water quality and conservation practices, we can change and improve our waters for the next generations.

More Information: Upper Midwest Tillage Guide


Recent Drainage Inspections – week of January 1 – January 5:

  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  I inspected a previous repair and calculated damages from a ditch cleaning from last fall. 
  • CD86 (Beauford Twp.)  We had reports of more beaver dams on this system in the southerly outlet end of this system.  Things will have to wait until spring thaw before any repairs or dam removals can be made.
  • Inspections are usually fairly quiet this time of year.

Please call with issues you observe on our public drainage system, as there is a lot of open ditch and tile in our county and only two of us in the drainage department.  We will do our absolute best to service your issues and concerns as we receive them.


We require that all repairs to a county drainage system (tile or open ditch) be authorized by one us in the drainage office, either Craig or myself, before any repairs are made.



Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist