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Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Agricultural Water Management

Education for Contractors, Farmers, Agencies and Agricultural Consultants for Modern Applications in Land Drainage and Agricultural Water Management: Dr. Brown

Summary:  The Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program has conducted educational programs in land drainage for over 50 years. The Overholt Drainage School is an intensive five-day short course conducted each year. In the past 24 years, over 1500 adult students have attended the school, and the subject matter has progressed from traditional land drainage towards specialty topics in water management that focus on the balance between sustained production and environmental objectives.

Situation:  Agriculture is Ohio's largest industry, and about 55 percent of Ohio's productive agricultural soils require drainage improvement to minimize soil erosion, reduce excess soil-water conditions in the plant root zone, and to help create favorable field conditions for farming operations in the spring and fall. Nationally, drainage improvement is required on more than 20 percent of our productive cropland. Subsurface drainage is beneficial for quality food production, but also is a dominant contributor of soluble nutrients, like nitrate and phosphate, to surface waters. Properly designed, installed and managed agricultural drainage systems are very important to help Ohio’s, and the Midwest's, farmers produce high quality food and fiber and to maintain profitability, while minimizing, and hopefully eliminating, water quality impacts. Thus, education is vitally important.

Response:  The Overholt Drainage School provides improved knowledge to land improvement contractors, soil and water conservation technicians, farmers, engineers, ag consultants, and others in the basic concepts, principles, and skills related to the purpose, design, layout, construction, and management of soil and water conservation systems, with emphasis on water management and water quality. Our team of instructors includes Land-Grant University Faculty/Staff, NRCS/ODNR/SWCD engineers and technicians, ARS engineers and scientists, and experienced OLICA contractors and associates. Since 1990, our team efforts have focused on state-of-the-art aspects and new research on laser surveying and topographic mapping; GPS mapping and machine control; agricultural subsurface drainage design and installation; water table management, drainage water management (controlled drainage) and subirrigation; crop yield and water quality improvements; and agricultural constructed wetlands.

Impact:  The College's Overholt Drainage School continues to be the Midwest’s dominant drainage educational program, and has helped to renew educational programming in water management in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri. In some years over 100 adult students attend the school, and for the past five years the fourty-five-plus annual attendees have largely come from referrals by former students; thus we have sustained attendance and conduct minimal advertising. This school continues to be the longest running water management educational program in the Midwest, if not the US.  Public demand for improvements in drainage technologies to better protect our state's soil and water resources and produce food is being addressed through education and research.