A major challenge facing agriculture is handling water excess and deficit exacerbated by climate change, while reducing eutrophication. Controlled drainage (CD) has the potential to address these issues and improve yield stability.
Controlled drainage (CD) is a system where the water discharge, and consequently the height of the groundwater table, can be adjusted by gates installed at the drain outlets. Thus, during periods when drainage is not needed or even harmful, the groundwater level can be allowed to rise, creating saturated conditions in the subsoil; leaving more water for evapotranspiration and providing sub-irrigation. Studies on different crops have repeatedly reported increased yield and improved yield stability due to the sub-irrigation provided by CD systems.
Moreover, CD systems are listed alongside other mitigation measures (e.g. crop rotations, variety mixtures, in field nutrient management) to control nutrient leaching from agricultural lands.
Despite controlled drainage's (CD) clear benefits and state subsidies for CD installation, CD adoption among Swedish farmers has been exceedingly low. We will establish CD demonstration fields to communicate the productivity, economic and environmental benefits to farmers, and to address their concerns. Field experiments with different crops and groundwater level scenarios will be performed on sites with CD-systems and soil moisture sensors will be installed. Field measures and sensor data will be collected to propose strategies for improving yield stability with CD sub-irrigation. The project will utilize a multidisciplinary research approach involving researchers at RISE, farmers, sensor experts, advisors and Swedish board of Agriculture representatives.
DemoField for Controlled Drainage
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