Innovative drainage is something lots of people are hearing about these days. But, it seems like it’s all talk and no action. Contractors, engineers, farmers, and regulatory agencies alike are all dealing with the same, age-old problem of finding the best way to handle drainage.
Innovative drainage is what I do for a living, so it’s something I’m always eager to talk to people about. Many people in my industry seem to have fear and resistance to trying something new. It makes sense, of course, because the stakes are high. Asking people to take a risk with their livelihood isn’t something to be taken lightly.
But the thing is, using innovative ways to manage water levels and maintain ditches doesn’t need to be risky. People have been studying this stuff for years, and there is solid evidence from scientific research and case studies on how beneficial using the newer ways of ditching truly is.
My company has been using an attachment I designed for over 18 years now that creates two-stage ditching. We called it the Ditch Doctor because it literally saves ditches.
Two-stage ditching is innovative, sure, but it’s nothing new. So why are so many farmers and contractors hesitant to try it? Just because you’ve been doing something one way your entire life doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
We recently did some work for the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia. Jean Lynds, the Crops & Ruminant Coordinator, has stated that after having us perform their ditch maintenance, the Ditch Doctor attachment is no longer viewed as just a means to maintain ditches, but as an alternative option to ditching.
In our post-work interview, Jean went on to describe her experience after trying our way of doing things. Here are just a few excerpts from our interview.
Q. When you compare the ditches that were done last year (with the conventional bucket method) to the ditches done this year by the Ditch Doctor, do you see a difference?
A. The Ditch Doctor attachment is cheaper and faster. It’s more cost-effective to use Ditch Doctor because, for the same amount of money, many more meters of the ditch can be done.
Using the attachment keeps the fields in production and it improved water drainage quickly.
Q. Is the crop yield in these fields different from last year?
A. Better crop yield this year. We can get farm equipment much closer to the ditches so the area is farmable and not lost to weeds.
Q. Fields were very wet when we were first there. Are the fields now more accessible than they were last year before the work was done?
A. The fields are accessible earlier due to the improved drainage. Because the fields are on marshland, they are always wet early in the season.
Q. Comparing the conventional bucket method to the Ditch Doctor method, what do you think the environmental impact on wildlife and vegetation in the ditches and the surrounding fields is?
A. The Ditch Doctor attachment is not very disruptive to the environment, which is good. The spoil is absorbed into the field so it does not damage the field or any crop in it.
Q. Do you notice any difference in the fields where 1-stage ditches are used compared to fields where there are 2-stage ditches?
A. The 2-stage ditch requires less maintenance. The 1-stage ditch fills in with silt and sediment quicker and requires more maintenance. It’s good to keep the ditch’s sides covered in vegetation to prevent erosion.
Q. Do you think the Ditch Doctor attachment is effective in leaving the vegetation on the sides of the ditch untouched?
A. Yes, it is effective. The sides of the ditch aren’t touched, they are just sprayed with spoil.
This is very useful in preventing erosion and reduces runoff into the ditch.
Q. Why did you choose Ditch Doctor for the job rather than anyone who ditches using the conventional bucket method?
A. It’s more cost-effective and cheaper, and it improves a greater area of land quicker. You’re able to get a crop out of the field this year, rather than having to wait a year.
To not have to deal with the spoil is huge, when using the bucket method the spoil is
dug out of the ditch and then spread out over the field. This spoil comes from deep in
the ditch and is poor quality material. Years after the ditching work is done and crops
are growing in the field again, the area that was covered with the spoil from the ditch
produces fewer crops. Where the spoil from the Ditch Doctor is sprayed the ground is fertile and produces crops just the same as the rest of the field. The Ditch Doctor attachment was able to fix existing ditches and cut ditches through ground that was completely clogged with material where ditches used to be.
The Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture works with industry, government, and research institutions to perform innovative research that helps to create new technologies for environmental sustainability, rural growth, and bio-resource innovation that supports both the agri-food and aquaculture industries.
In addition to their modern labs, they have a number of research facilities that include a 250-hectare farm, an experimental orchard, greenhouses, and more.
The university has a mission to drive agricultural innovation, so it makes sense they were willing and eager to test the Ditch Doctor’s way of doing things. But with more and more case studies like this coming out, when will the rest of the industry get on board with a better way of maintaining ditches and managing water levels?
This case study proves without a doubt that a 2-stage ditch saves money, increases crop yield, requires less maintenance, and delivers instant results. So when we’re asking you to give this a try, we’re not asking you to take a risk. We’re asking you to look at the evidence and make a business decision from facts.
Just because you’ve been doing something one way your entire career doesn’t mean it’s the best way.