On the Leading Edge: Conservation Drainage Practices for Nutrient Loss Reduction

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          The On the Leading Edge series will focus on four conservation drainage practices available in Illinois – drainage water management, bioreactors, saturated buffers, and constructed wetlands – including how they work and how contractors and conservation partners can identify potential locations in the field. Case studies describing how watershed planning tools can be used to help scale up practice adoption will also be presented.


          Session 3 Coming Soon



          This series  includes three sessions, scheduled for July 30, August 6, and August 13, from 11AM to 12:15PM. CEU's will be offered at 1 hr of soil and water management for each session.


          Register Today!!!

          Installing edge of field conservation practices that address nitrate losses from tile drainage is critical for meeting the water quality goals outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Participants in the virtual series will explore opportunities to harness and build on available resources and expertise in order to scale up conservation drainage practice implementation throughout Illinois. Existing resources and expertise in Illinois include:

          • Research demonstrating the effectiveness of these practices on real farms.
          • Conservation professionals committed to working with landowners to address resource concerns.
          • Drainage contractors dedicated to professional practice installation and continued learning.
          • Landowners and operators who care about clean water and healthy soil.
          • Comprehensive planning tools to enable practice prioritization at the watershed scale.
          • Cost share programs that can offset costs associated with conservation drainage practice design and installation.


          Session 1: Thursday, July 30 (11 AM – 12:15 PM)


          The On the Leading Edge series kicks off with an interactive session on altered hydrology and the role conservation drainage practices can play in meeting the goals of the IL Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Speakers will focus on the science behind four practices – drainage water management, bioreactors, saturated buffers, and constructed wetlands – and discuss considerations for landowners as they evaluate alternatives for reducing nutrient loss.

          Featured Speakers:

          Dr. Jane Frankenberger is a professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University, where she has built an active applied research and extension program on agricultural drainage, watershed management, and water quality. Dr. Frankenberger also leads the multi-state, highly collaborative Transforming Drainage project.

          Nathan Utt is a doctoral candidate with the University of Minnesota Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering Program. He has more than 10 years of experience in the drainage industry, including designing and monitoring controlled drainage systems, bioreactors, and saturated buffers.

          Dr. Jill Kostel is the senior environmental engineer at The Wetlands Initiative and manager of the “Smart Wetlands” program, which advances the use of small, farm-based wetlands to reduce nutrient runoff from tile drainage.

          Dr. Laura Christianson is professional engineer and an Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. She leads research on a variety of conservation drainage practices and works to find practical and economically viable solutions for treating agricultural drainage.

          Session 2: Thursday, August 6 (11 AM – 12: 15 PM)


          The second session in the three-part series will drill down to individual practices and provide a “what to look for in the field” look at practice requirements for controlled drainage, bioreactors, saturated buffers, and constructed wetlands. A panel representing landowner, contractor, and conservation professional perspectives will discuss their experiences and take audience questions on topics related to conservation drainage practice adoption and implementation.

          Featured Speakers:

          Dr. Ruth Book is the State Conservation Engineer for the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service. In this role, she leads the team responsible for the planning and design of NRCS engineering conservation practices in Illinois.

          Followed by a panel discussion: Getting to implementation, together!

          Session 3: Thursday, August 13 (11 AM – 12:15 PM)


          The third and final session in the three-part series will focus on applying the Ag Conservation Planning Framework (ACPF), a free watershed modeling tool, to demonstrate how model outputs can be used to improve watershed outreach and education, evaluate nutrient loss reduction scenarios, and advance adoption and implementation of conservation drainage practices.

          Featured Speakers:

          Jeff Boeckler is the principal and co-founder of Northwater Consulting. He works extensively with governments, organizations, and businesses to address water resource challenges through assessment, monitoring, and geospatial analysis.

          Jennifer Jones works as a Watershed Outreach Associate with the University of Illinois Extension. Her work is focused in the Embarras and Little Wabash watersheds, which have been identified as phosphorus priority watersheds in the IL NLRS.

          Keegan Kult is the Executive Director of the Ag Drainage Management Coalition, an industry-led organization that looks to speed the implementation of conservation drainage practices to improve water quality while maintaining the production benefits of drainage. He has extensive experience designing, evaluating, and installing conservation drainage practices.

          Partners engaged in development of the On the Leading Edge series include representatives from The Nature Conservancy, The Wetlands Initiative, IL Land Improvement Contractors Association, Ag Drainage Management Coalition, University of Illinois Extension, Association of Illinois Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Illinois Association of Drainage Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, DIGS Associates, and Springfield Plastics.