From the classroom to the field, 22 Illinois agricultural professionals came together last summer for the first series of Advanced Conservation Drainage Training (ACDT) to build their knowledge of the practices and principles behind conservation drainage. As the entire agriculture community works to improve water quality and reduce nutrient losses in the state, the drainage industry has a vital role to play.
“Research shows us that traditional subsurface drainage methods can contribute to nutrient losses from our agriculture fields into our surface waters. The agricultural community now has the science-based conservation drainage tools and practices to address these losses. The ACDT provides agriculture professionals an in-depth training on these new tools in a collaborative and engaging setting with the hopes that every agriculture industry professional can help Illinois move the needle on water quality improvement,” stated Ryan Arch, Executive Director of the Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association, Inc.
The 2018 series focused on saturated buffers, constructed wetlands, and bioreactors. Through three separate training's over the course of the summer, drainage experts from Illinois and throughout the region offered technical details on planning, designing and constructing the tile treatment practices.
The training's also included discussions on why such practices are needed, the science behind why they work, the programs available for helping farmers implement them, and training on messaging, communication, and outreach to farmers on the benefits of a whole system approach to drainage. By engaging in discussions on a diverse range of topics, participants increased their understanding of conservation drainage practices and implementation challenges, and they benefited from opportunities to establish and learn from a peer network of drainage and conservation professionals.
The Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Partnership, in conjunction with IL NRCS, the Ag Drainage Management Coalition, and others, are hosting this training in 2019. This year’s series will focus on saturated buffers, constructed wetlands, and drainage water management. A live installation of the buffer and wetland will be included; the installations will be open to the public.
Tyler Walker, P.E. & Director of Engineering Services for DIGS Associates, participated in the 2018 training and enjoyed it immensely expressing, “As someone who designs and proposes these practices to landowners, it was beneficial to learn more about the research behind each practice. I also enjoyed the opportunity to discuss lessons learned with industry peers.”