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Oct 01

Dirty Underwear for Better Soil Health?

Posted on October 1, 2018 at 5:56 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 10/1/2018


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

  • We have a few joint county meetings coming up in the near future involving both Faribault County and Waseca County.  Joint county meetings are needed when we are preparing to do work on drainage systems that cross into adjoining counties.

Project Updates:


  • JD09 (Le Ray Twp.)  Last week was productive despite some muddy conditions in the beginning of the week and equipment issues.  Both contractors are still installing new tile as part of this two-part improvement.  The southerly part of this improvement has a couple weeks left of installing new tile, minus any weather and equipment delays.  The northerly portion of this improvement is looking more like the better part of a month left for work to do.  Pink represents areas of new tile installed.jd09 imp map update
  • CD48 (Cambria Twp.)   Nothing new to report at this time.
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  The new 60-inch triple wall pipe is installed and has water flowing through it.  The contractor for this repair project showed up last week and installed the new pipe and regraded the open ditch area.  The design of this new pipe and regraded area is for the water to over-land flow in high water situations but keep the township road and ditch secure.  The normal and slightly elevated flows will be contained in the 60-inch pipe.  The major rain events are when the “flow-over” design will be tested.
  • JD34 (Le Ray Twp.)  Nothing new at this point in time. The final items and punch list will be completed after fall harvest is complete. 

Underwear and Soil Health?

Several southern Minnesota farmers and the Faribault County SWCD (Soil and Water Conservation District) have found a fun way of testing and showcasing soil health.  Earlier in the year, around July, this group of farmers went out and dug holes in their corn and soybean fields and literally buried cotton underwear.  After letting these undies sit in the dirt for a couple months, they then dug them all back up and reported about the different stages of decomposition.

The theory behind burying underwear out in a field is to test what sort of soil health the soils are in.  The idea is that the more decomposed the underwear, the better the soil health.  How is that you might be asking.  The better the soil health means more the microbial activity including worms and fungal organisms.  The better the food source the more “good soil” activity you will find. 

Food sources would include residue from corn or bean crops that aren’t conventionally tilled up right after harvest.  Cover crops are a great way to improve soil health.  The use of cover crops in-between row crop seasons is a great way to ensure that a constant food source is there for those essential organisms that are key to soil health. Cover crops are also proving to be vital to stabilizing nitrates and phosphorus in the soil.  This stabilization of nutrients isn’t only good for water quality, but also saves money for the grower by hopefully not using as much the next season.  Erosion is also a huge issue in parts of southern Minnesota.  Cover crops and no-till management decisions are proving to be very vital to preserving our precious topsoil.

A few of the farmers that participated in the undies experiment showed their results of decomposition from different management and conservation practices they are using on their farms.  One particular farming family is finding that they are getting the best soil health results by the use of cover crops and no-till practices.  They are not only seeing a savings in their soil health, but also savings on the costs of labor and fuel by not doing fall tillage. 

This idea of not tilling and making your field nice and black after harvest is very much against traditional thinking and teaching.  These non-conventional ideas are becoming more and more popular due to the increased exposure by local SWCDs.  Many local SWCDs have done well in encouraging the local growers to try cover crops and no-till ideas on small areas of their own farms.  For more reading on this interesting article, click the link below.


Recent Drainage Inspections – week of September 24 – September 28:

  • JD48 (Butternut Vallery Twp.)  Monitoring our weed kill from recent spraying.  I’m fairly happy with the results.  Multiple modes of management are needed to try and control some tough weeds along our open ditches.  Going forward, we will start incorporating mechanical controls (mowing) and herbicide programs to try to keep up with tough weeds.
  • CD56 (Garden City & Lincoln Twps) Final touches to this repair project from 2017 should be about finished up.   
  • CD41 (Vernon Center Twp.)  The wet weather prevented any cleaning activity to start last week.  We still plan on cleaning this small section of open ditch yet this year.
  • CD36 (Butternut Valley Twp.)  Our washed-out side-intake has been repaired and hydroseeded.  Hydroseeding is a process of spraying a mixture of grass seed, fertilizer and compost.  The hydroseeding works great especially in steep terrain.  Hopefully we can get a little warm weather to get our grass growing before mother-nature freezes too bad.
  • JD34 (Le Ray Twp.)  Our regrading efforts from last week seemed to help keep the county road ditches dry after some of recent heavy rains.  Final touch up items will be addressed after fall harvest.  We hope to televise and finalize this improvement project as soon as we can.
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  The installation of our new pipe is complete and taking water as of last Thursday evening.  The contractor spent just a couple days installing the new 200 feet of pipe.  Final grading of the overflow area and seeding is still needed.  Photos from pipe repair install shown below.

cd35 Brunz repair cd35 Brunz repair 2
cd35 Brunz repair 4

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