Agricultural Drainage

Research and Extension


At least 50% of Indiana’s cropland has drainage improvements, enhancing crop production on more than 8 million acres. While enabling Indiana farmers to produce outstanding yields, drainage has environmental costs. Subsurface tile drains provide a direct flowpath for nitrate loading to streams and rivers. Nutrient enrichment is a growing water quality concern.

Purdue researchers are working to better understand and predict the links between drainage, yields, and the environment. Purdue Extension brings research-based information to people throughout Indiana. This site provides links to research and extension at Purdue University.


New in 2016 -- Agricultural Tile Drains Clogged With Cover Crop Roots?


Transforming Drainage logo This multistate project is a collaborative effort aimed at addressing important land management questions through the assessment and development of new agricultural drainage technologies




Drainage and Water Quality

Flow and nitrate leaching into tile drains have been monitored for 15 years at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center (SEPAC) experimental drainage plots.  That web site provides information on the level of nitrate carried by tile drains and reductions that can be achieved when crop management practices are changed.

The Purdue Agronomy Water Quality Research Facilities Web site provides information on Purdue University water quality studies at the Southeast Purdue Agricultural Center (SEPAC) and at the Water Quality Field Station, located at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE).

Interpreting Nitrate Concentration in Tile Drainage Water (AY 318-W, 8 pages, pdf) provides general guidelines for interpreting measured NO3-N concentrations in drainflow samples collected through monitoring programs, and describes the most important factors influencing drainflow NO3-N concentrations.

Drainage Water Management

Drainage Water Management is a new practice in which water control structures are installed in the main drain lines to hold water back and allow farmers to drain only as needed.


·         Drainage Water Management for the Midwest (WQ-44, 546 kB, pdf) This publication developed by researchers from 5 states answers questions about drainage water management for the Midwest.

·         Narrated powerpoint overview of drainage water management (4 minutes, presented by Jane Frankenberger)

Purdue drainage water management research/demonstration project

Impacts of drainage water management on nitrate loss, soil quality, and farm profitability are being studied through paired-field trials on three private farms and a Purdue University farm. Drain flow and nitrate concentration are being monitored in each paired drainage water management

·         Overview of Purdue project (narrated powerpoint, presented by Jane Frankenberger)

·         Drainage Water Management Field Day at Davis-PAC - 2004. (Video of Field Day (19:29), Handout from field day; Photos from field day)


Drain Spacing and Yield

Spacing Recommendations

Recommendations for drainage depth and spacing in each soil type in Indiana based on years of experience and knowledge of soil properties can be found in the publication AY-300, Drainage Recommendations for Indiana Soils. See "Drainage and Wet Soil Management" for more information and to download it as a pdf file.

Spacing Research
The optimum spacing for a given soil is not known precisely. Research sites with long-term spacing research provide data that can help producers make decisions

Data from Indiana research sites are summarized in "Drainage and Yield Studies" (actually part of a multi-state extension publication posted at the Ohio State University site).

Purdue Faculty with expertise in drainage

Department of Agronomy

Eileen Kladivko (kladivko@purdue.edu)
Sylvie Brouder (sbrouder@purdue.edu)
Brad Joern (bjoern@purdue.edu)
Ron Turco (rturco@purdue.edu)

Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Jane Frankenberger (frankenb@purdue.edu)
Bernard Engel (engelb@purdue.edu)


For more information on this Web site, contact Jane Frankenberger (frankenb@purdue.edu)

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