Drainage research

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Terms & Synonyms

Agricultural drainage research

Official WHO Definition

Other Definitions

Agricultural drainage research is the study of agricultural drainage systems and their effects to arrive at optimal drainage system design


Interpretations and Explanations

Aspects to be taken into account

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Agricultural land drainage has agricultural, environmental, engineering, economical, social and political|socio-political aspects (Figure 1).
All these aspects can be subject of drainage research.
The aim (objective, target) of agricultural land drainage is the optimized agricultural production related to:

  1. reclamation of agricultural land
  2. conservation agricultural land
  3. optimization of crop yield
  4. crop diversification
  5. cropping intensification
  6. optimization of farm operations.

Systems analysis

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

The role of targets, criterion, environmental and environmental factors is illustrated in Figure 2.
In this figure criterion factors are factors influenced by drainage on the one hand and determining the agricultural performance on the other.
An example of a criterion factor is the depth of the water table:

  1. A drainage system influences this depth; the relation between drainage system design and depth of water table is mainly physical and can be described by drainage equations.
  2. The depth of the water table as a criterion factor needs to be translated into a criterion index to be be given a numerical value that represents the behavior of the water table on the one hand and that can be related to the target (e.g. crop production) on the other hand.
  3. The relation between criterion index and target can often be optimized, the maximum value providing the ultimate aim while the corresponding value of the criterion index can be used as an agricultural drainage criterion in the design procedure.

Crop response processes

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

The underlying processes in the optimization insert of Figure 2 are manifold. The processes can be grouped into mutually dependent soil physical, soil chemical/biological, and hydrological processes (Figure 3).

The soil physical processes include soil aeration, soil structure, soil stability, and soil temperature.

The chemical processes include soil salinity, soil acidity and soil alkalinity.

The hydrological processes include evaporation, runoff, and soil salinity.

Examples of processes can be found in reference (1).

Field data

Water table and crop production
Water table and crop production

In drainage research the collection and analysis of field data is important, see reference (2).

In dealing with field data one must expect considerable random variation owing to the large number of natural processes involved and the large variability of plant and soil properties and hydrological conditions.

An example of a relation between crop yield and depth of water table subject to random natural variation is shown in the attached graph. The graph was made with the SegReg program for segmented regression (on the web : [1] ).

When analyzing field data with random variation a proper application of statistical principles like in regression and frequency analysis is necessary.


research WHO-Lexicon page (translations and examples)

See also

These are internal links:

External Resources

(1) R.J.Oosterbaan, 1994, Agricultural Drainage Criteria. In: H.P.Ritzema (ed.), Drainage Principles and Applications, Publication 16, ILRI, p.635-690. International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement, Wageningen, The Netherlands. ISBN 90 70754 3 39.
Free download from : [2] or directly at : [3] (PDF)

(2) R.J.Oosterbaan, 2002, Drainage Research in Farmers' Fields: Analysis of Data.
Free download from : [4] (PDF)

(3) Articles and software on land drainage on the web : [5]

(4) Frequently asked questions on drainage and salinity : [6] .


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