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Feb 19

Soil Health, are Your Soils Flat-Lined?

Posted on February 19, 2020 at 9:20 AM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 2/18/2020


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

  • JTD 83 Waseca (McPherson Twp.)  We will be holding an upcoming repair hearing.  Those landowners affected by this hearing should have received notice via U.S. Postal service.  Details of the hearing date, time and location are included in the notice that was mailed to affected landowners.                                                                                                                    

Soil Health:

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a local Soil Health meeting.  The event was called “Lets Talk Dirt”.  The soil health gathering was sponsored by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), Blue Earth County SWCD (Soil and Water Conservation District), Crystal Waters Project, NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service)
and the Minnesota Soil Health Coalition.

This town-hall style meeting was hosted in Lake Crystal.  The intended audience for this soil health meeting was aimed at being a mixture of government conservation groups, local water quality groups and actual landowners or growers.  Mother-Nature decided to throw us a monkey wrench with the snowy weather, but that didn’t stop some of us from attending.

The demonstrations presented by staff from the NRCS were great.  The three demonstrations at the meeting included; a rainfall simulation test, the Slake test and the soiled undies test.  The last one, I’m sure you’re laughing at right now, but that’s really what it is.  So, let’s explain these three tests quickly. 

The rainfall simulation test is a way of illustrating the soil erosion effects of a one-inch rainfall event on two different soil scenarios.  One scenario is soil that is practicing the cover crop method with active plant growth and the other scenario is an example of conventional tillage situations that have no cover crops.  It was amazing the visual differences between the two scenarios.

The second test was the Slake test.  The Slake test is designed to measure the stability of soils.  This test is incredibly simple in design and execution but delivers a huge visual impact to the difference soil health plays.

The third and final test was the “Soil your Undies” test.  This involves burying an actual all cotton pair of underwear two inches deep in the soil.  The difference in soil activity from different soils and different agricultural practices was illustrated by how much of the original cotton underwear remained after burying them in the soil.  Again, this was a huge mind-opening demonstration, as the visual effects of the tests speak volumes for soil health and thinking outside-the-box. 

A huge thank you to Crystal Waters Project and the rest of the folks that made this meeting possible.  Not the greatest weather or the biggest turn out, but overwhelmingly worth the time to attend. 

Click the links below to view these experiments in more depth.  Slake test:

Rainfall simulation test:

Soil your Undies test:

Project Updates:


  • CD48 (Cambria Twp.)  No change from last week.
  • JD09 (Le Ray Twp.)  No updates given from last week.
  • JD34 (Le Ray Twp.)  We have had crews out finishing up with some televising and jetting of certain areas of pipe.     


Recent Drainage Inspections:

  • No inspections from last week.

I didn’t make it out last week to do any inspections, but I did make it out to our local ski hill over the weekend.  I haven’t been on downhill skies in over 20 years.  The first few runs down the hill where a bit intimidating, but I was feeling confident in no time.  Just like riding a bike, might take you awhile to get the feel of it, but once you learn how to, you don’t forget.  The only thing I forgot was how much fun it was to be out flying down those slopes.  I guess I might have to add downhill skiing back into my hobbies group. 
Mt. Kato

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




Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist