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Sustainability and drainage

mudIn a nutshell...
  • Good drainage is the basis of a healthy productive soil.
  • Drains are needed to remove excess water from the air spaces in the soil.
  • Blocked drains and saturated soils lead to long term damage and lowered pasture production.
  • Drainage is always expensive, so farmers try to manage as far as possible to avoid the high capital cost.
  • The benefits of drainage are long term.
  • Drains need to be regularly maintained to reap the benefits.
  • Because drains cannot be easily seen, it's easy to neglect their maintenance.
How can you tell if you have a problem?
  • Water standing in pools on the soil surface (ponding) after rain.
  • These pools not draining away for very long periods.
  • Where drain outlets can be seen, eg. into main open drains, they are not running.
  • Paddocks that pug easily during grazing in wet weather.
  • Bad smells (rotten eggs) from soils in some areas of the paddock.
  • Poor pasture growth in certain areas of the farm.
  • No documented plan of where any drains are on the farm.
How can you tell if you're doing well?
  • Highly productive pastures all year round.
  • No ponding on paddocks after rain.
  • After very heavy rain, pools do not last long and drain away effectively.
  • Very little of no pugging when grazing wet paddocks.
  • Any visible drain outlets running well after rain.
What can you do to improve things?
  • First decide how important drainage is in restricting farm production and profit.
  • If it is a major problem, review the farm's total drainage programme with a consultant.  Beware of non-qualified enthusiasts!
  • Local knowledge can be valuable.
  • Remember your drains may affect your neighbour's property.  Talk to them before you do anything.
  • Draw up an accurate plan of the drains on the property - if they are known.
  • Identify soil types on the farm and their need for drainage.
  • Decide what type of drainage will meet your farm's needs and their cost/benefits.
  • Make sure you use an approved drainage contractor.
  • Document any new drains put on the farm.
Where can you go for help?
  • Regional Councils
  • County Councils
  • Federated Farmers of NZ
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Department of Conservation


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