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Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering


Air and Water

Dr. Jay Martin educates students about water qualityHealthy air and water are important for our communities and for agricultural systems. FABE Extension educators in this area specialize on the management of air emissions from animal production facilities, agricultural drainage and irrigation, and wastewater management through septic systems, wastewater treatment, and more. 


agricultural air quality

FABE researchers are committed to the discovery of knowledge and development of new technologies for effective management of indoor environment and air emissions from agriculture animal feeding operations to improve health and the environmental quality, promote renewable energy or product generation, abate greenhouse effects, and enhance competitiveness and sustainability of the agricultural animal production industries.

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agricultural BPMs

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agricultural water management

The Agricultural Water Management program is home for the International Program for Water Management in Agriculture and the Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program in FABE. Our team works at the intersection of soil health and agricultural water management for water quality and agricultural sustainability. Our current research and Extension work is focused on:

- Agricultural water management including irrigation and drainage;
- Design, monitoring and evaluating practices for agroecosystem sustainability and environmental quality;
- Soil health and climate-smart agriculture;
- Field- and watershed-scale monitoring of hydrology, hydraulics, water quality, soil-plant-water interactions, greenhouse gases, carbon, and nutrient cycling;
- GIS-GPS applications and developing farmer-friendly decision tools.

The AgWater team organizes annual Overholt Drainage Schools, a five-day training program on drainage design, installation, and management. We are constantly creating/updating Extension resources focused on the topic areas listed above. Feel free to reach out if you cannot find what you are looking for on our website.

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Read about the team’s current research projects
Read our Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program newsletters
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Conservation Ditches

Case studies
Design considerations
Design tools
Mapping two-stage ditches in the WLEB
Practice Overview

conservation drainage

Subsurface drainage was introduced in the Midwestern United States in the 1830s and has since become a necessity to sustain crop production in the region’s poorly drained soils. Is there any farmer in this region who does not understand the benefits of drainage? “Twenty Benefits of Drainage” was published in 1982 by OSU Drainage Extension Agricultural Engineer, Mel Palmer. The list goes beyond the improved trafficability and crop yield benefits. Most of those benefits still hold true 40 years later!

Despite its numerous benefits, some of the adverse impacts of drainage on the environment have become a major concern in recent decades. Two noteworthy water quality issues are caused by nitrogen and phosphorus, which can escape farm fields through drain tile: the formation of harmful (sometimes toxic) algal blooms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie and other lakes, and the huge hypoxic “dead zone” where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Note that agricultural drainage is not the only source of the nutrients reaching these water bodies, but it s one of the major contributors.

Conservation drainage: It is possible to minimize the negative impacts of drainage on the environment. The Golden Rule of Drainage is: “Drain only what is necessary for good crop growth and trafficability, and not one drop more.” “Conservation drainage” goes further, incorporating approaches and practices to minimize the environmental impacts on the downstream environment and ecology. Controlled drainage (drainage water management), drainage water recycling, saturated buffers, denitrifying bioreactors, phosphorus filters, and two-stage ditch design are some of the examples of conservation drainage. It is important to note that conservation drainage refers to in-field, edge-of-field, as well as ditch and stream-level conservation practices, as these are all important spatial units of agricultural drainage systems. More details on the conservation drainage practices can be found at and

Overholt drainage school

Ohio State University’s Overholt Drainage School has been held annually for the past 50+ years. The school provides comprehensive training to farmers, land improvement contractors, soil and water conservation technicians, engineers, consultants, sanitarians and others on the purpose, design, layout, construction and management of drainage systems. The five-day program is usually held in March and involves hands-on learning activities as well as educational talks on drainage water management and water quality.

Considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 drainage school will not be held this March. However, a virtual workshop and webinar series covering a range of drainage-related topics is currently being planned. The series will launch with a half-day workshop focused on drainage design and installation in Early June. The workshop will feature updates on recently passed H.B. 340 – Ohio’s “petition ditch laws” that address the installation and maintenance of drainage works of improvement in Ohio. A panel of professional engineers representing state and federal agencies, drainage contractors, and tile manufacturers will then discuss some standard practices, common issues, and troubleshooting associated with drainage design, installation, and repairs. Following the half-day workshop, the Overholt Program will also offer a monthly webinar series focused on drainage-related topics. The hourly webinars will feature experts and panels to discuss various design and installation aspects, use of advanced tools, software and technology for drainage design, and conservation practices for soil and water quality protection. More details on the upcoming programs are available at

For any questions about the upcoming drainage education programs including the drainage school, contact Vinayak Shedekar at

wastewater management

Septic systems, wastewater treatment, water supplies, septic system information and alternative systems are presented in workshops, conferences and publications, food processing wastewater is a special focus of the program, developing low-cost treatment systems to meet environmental requirements in Ohio, and water testing and water treatment information for private wells is available.

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