What are the Different Types of Farm Drainage?

Klaus Strasser

Farm drainage is the term for the process by which surface or subsurface water is moved, or re-distributed, to a designated area. This can be done for purposes such as preventing flooding, which can damage crops. Farm drainage is typically distinguished from irrigation, since the latter involves the planned transportation of water to crops.

Farm drainage is the term for the process by which surface or subsurface water is moved to preventing flooding, which can damage crops.
Farm drainage is the term for the process by which surface or subsurface water is moved to preventing flooding, which can damage crops.

When there is a build up of rain or water, this can be very bad for an agricultural area and its crops. This is because excess water can prevent crops from growing on the land. For this reason, farmers generally need to have a good farm drainage system to help ensure that crops remain healthy or that livestock can flourish. In areas that traditionally experience heavy rains, a good farm drainage system is of paramount importance in order to ensure the productivity of the farm.

One of the most common types of farm drainage system is a drainage trench. As the name implies, this consists of a series of trenches that have been dug by the farmer, in order to re-locate excess water away from crops and livestock. Generally, these trenches use the slope of land and the power of gravity to carry water away. This type of solution is often referred to as a field drainage system, because the trenches are located in the same area where crops are grown.

The exact location of these trenches is often carefully planned beforehand in order to maximize their efficiency. This includes determining areas where excess water is to be re-directed, such as lakes or off-site locations. Sometimes these field drainage systems will be coordinated with main drainage systems, which are systems that belong to a city or county. This means that the trenches will transport water directly to a public drainage system.

Subsurface trenches may also be dug under the ground. When the main drainage problem is that of excess of water in the soil, this can be an effective solution. After trenches have been dug, perforated pipes may be laid in the soil and then re-covered by dirt. These subsurface trenches may use the power of gravity or incorporate pumps to accomplish their task.

Many different types of farm drainage equipment and machinery exist. Some of these include trench digging equipment, which can be used to quickly dig trenches to the necessary dimensions. Till plows are another type of machine that allows for the digging of trenches specifically for agricultural drainage purposes.

There are also computer programs that help plan farm and agricultural drainage. These can calculate the effect of water on various types of soil, and provide data on how much damage it can cause. This software may also simulate ways to employ a trenching system, or other drainage methods, to most efficiently re-distribute water.

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Discussion Comments


I have seen farmers use extensive terracing and trench systems to control drainage on the side of hills and slopes. What they are able to do simply by manipulating the land is remarkable.

Drainage pipes are also great for draining areas where standing water sticks around longer than you want. My back yard is one of those places, and we have set up a network of drainage pipes to take the water away.


In locations where the land is flat, farmers are more likely to use the underground drainage systems. I have seen some field where there is almost no run off of the water after a rain, and the water stands in the fields until the ground is able to absorb it.

Some soils are better able to absorb and drain the water, but when you get a field of red clay and no planned drainage system, there is a good chance you are going to have standing water for a while after a heavy rain.

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