Conservation Drainage

Throughout Illinois and other parts of the Midwest, farmers are increasingly investing in tile drainage systems to improve productivity and trafficability of their fields. Conservation drainage practices such as bioreactors, controlled drainage systems, saturated buffers, and constructed wetlands, are designed to capture and treat drainage from tile outlets, providing effective and often long-term nutrient loss reduction benefits.

Good Idea Mini-Grant Opportunity – Deadline Jan 15!

This mini-grant program will expand farmer-led edge-of-field conservation practice implementation in the Mississippi River Basin. We are seeking pairs of farmers and farm advisors (e.g. county agents/Extension professionals, conservation professionals, crop consultants, agronomic advisors, etc.) that meet eligibility requirements to compete for grants in the amount of up to $8,000. Additional partners beyond the farmer and advisor pair are welcomed. Online applications deadline is January 15, 2024!

Successful applicants will demonstrate strong potential to complete the following deliverables:

  1. implement a low-cost edge-of-field practice (e.g. vegetated buffers, prairie strips, grade control structures, water control structures, controlled drainage, grassed waterways, 2-stage ditches, drainage water management, saturated buffers, constructed or restored wetlands, phosphorous filter, bioreactor, drainage water recycling, tailwater recovery system, vegetated drainage ditch, buffered drain pipe, winter water holding) on the farmer’s operations
  2. attend training to strengthen their capacities as opinion leaders for conservation, and
  3. create a video or podcast about the farmer’s experiences to communicate practical advice to other farmers about implementing an edge-of-field practice. The video or podcast will be shared on One Good Idea, a clearinghouse of videos and podcasts that feature farmers sharing their experiences implementing soil and water conservation practices.
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Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy & Agricultural Conservation Practices

This 1-pager created by Illinois Extension, gives a brief overview of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (INLRS), highlights nutrient loss in Illinois, impacts of nutrient loss, and conservation practices that can address in-field and edge of field nutrient loss.

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Jumpstarting Conservation Drainage Practices in Illinois

Project Summary

The Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC), along with American Farmland Trust (AFT), Illinois Land Improvement Contractors Association (IL LICA), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and The Wetlands Initiative (TWI), were recently awarded a National Fish Habitat Partnership Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Fishers & Farmers Partnership. With these funds, this coalition of partners from the IL Sustainable Ag Partnership (ISAP) is working in central Illinois to identify sites where (1) conditions are suitable for conservation drainage practices, and (2) there is local interest in gaining hands-on experience with the evaluation, design, and installation steps associated with conservation drainage practices. This “learning by doing” experience is critical for successfully installing conservation drainage practices, and it helps build momentum to deliver tile treatment practices at the pace and scale that can impact water quality. ISAP invites your participation and engagement in this effort to “jumpstart” conservation drainage practice installation in Central Illinois.

Who can provide more information?

Keegan Kult, Ag Drainage Management Coalition: 

Adrienne Marino, The Nature Conservancy,

Jill Kostel, The Wetlands Initiative, 

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Guide to Water Quality, Climate, Social and Economic Outcomes Estimation Tools

The guide features multiple approaches, methods, and tools available to quantify environmental, social, and economic outcomes associated with farm conservation practices.  All of the tools can be used by farm conservation project managers without the need for complex computer modeling.

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ISAP’s Edge-of-Field Incentive Directory

ISAP’s Edge-of-Field Incentives Directory provides an overview of edge-of-field (EoF) incentive payment opportunities for farmers in Illinois. EoF practices are defined as those practices which intercept, capture, and treat subsurface drainage (conservation drainage practices) or surface runoff at the field level. The conservation drainage practices include bioreactors, constructed wetlands for tile-drainage treatment, drainage water management, drainage water recycling, and saturated buffers. Surface runoff practices include vegetated riparian buffers, filter strips, prairie strips, and restored wetlands. The directory also includes a “Stacking Matrix” so farmers can easily determine if they may be eligible to stack payments from multiple programs.

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Conservation Effects Assessment Project: Publications

USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project, CEAP, provides a suite of publications highlighting the effects of voluntary conservation across the nation’s working lands. The site compiles reports, articles fact sheets, and webinars on topics including crop lands, grazing lands, wetlands, wildlife, and watersheds.