Those with soggy fields on their farms see a problem. Those with soggy fields at one of the nation’s premier farm shows see an opportunity to create a win-win solution.
“One of our production fields had some drainage problems. We had problems with gully erosion and wet conditions in the field due to poor drainage,” said Matt Sullivan, assistant manager of the Farm Science Review (FSR). “We saw the opportunity to promote some new drainage practices with this.”
Going into 2007, the FSR was looking to show visitors some cutting edge drainage installation techniques with the Ohio Land Improvement Contractors of America (OLICA). While OLICA was very interested in the opportunity to get some exposure at the FSR, the association also had limited time to do the proper legwork for a successful drainage installation job leading up to the show.
To address this problem, FSR turned to students in Ohio State’s Agricultural Engineering program.
“We thought the group of seniors in the Capstone course that was doing soil and water engineering could work on it. Essentially, I was their customer and they designed a plan to meet my needs,” Sullivan said. “They came out and took pictures. They met with the county engineer. They met with the necessary associations. Once they gathered all of their baseline data, they got their elevation maps, and then they studied all the various drainage designs and created a plan with waterways, drainage pipes and put in a control structure to create a water table in the soil. They took it from a bare field to solving the problem with drainage.”
Justin Dabbelt was one of those students and really appreciated the chance to add real life application to his coursework at Ohio State.
“We were like the contractors. We found out there was no drainage in the northern part of the field. We went through and redesigned the layout and added a new grass waterway.
It actually correlated really well with our drainage class and it was a great learning experience,” Dabbelt said. “We got to encounter some real life challenges and learn how to handle them. It gave us a lot of responsibility and they took our student ideas and really put them to use. It was a lot of fun and it is great working with the guys at FSR.”
The only thing the students did not do for the project was the installation, which is where OLICA came in.
“The student plan provided OLICA with a nice baseline for their project, which really helped. It worked out very well with OLICA, and the students got an A in my book, too,” Sullivan said. “It was a real win-win.”
This year, FSR visitors will also win because OLICA is returning to do more installation projects using the student design used in the previous project. They will put on display the most up-to-date drainage technology and installation practices for visitors to see over the three-day show.
“This year they are going to be just north of 70. We’re going to have shuttles taking people back and forth starting in the morning,” Sullivan said. “They do an excellent job. Everything they have installed works perfectly. The ground is able to absorb the excess moisture and reduce the erosion. We’ve seen great results out of the fields OLICA has already done and, ultimately, we’re going to have four fields with perfect conditions for growing crops.”