SERF Drainage

Drainage Plot

Title:  SERF drainage

Location:  Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm

Time Period:  2007-present

Research Team:  Kristina TeBockhorst, Carl Pederson, and Matt Helmers

Project Description:  Since 2007, research at the Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm (SERF) has examined the effects of tile drainage on crop yield and drainage nutrient loss. The research farm includes eight individually drained plots that range from 3-6 acres in size. The eight plots include two replications of each of the four drainage treatments, including three artificial subsurface drainage systems and one undrained system. Each plot contains both crop phases of a corn-soybean rotation as well as a 24-row section of continuous corn. The center tile line from each plot is monitored continuously with a V-notch weir for drainage volume (Figure 2). Grab samples for nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate-N) and total phosphorus (P) analysis are taken weekly when tiles are flowing. Soils are predominantly Kalona and Taintor, both poorly drained silty clay loams. The 30-year average annual precipitation at SERF is 36.8 inches. At SERF, drainage water management practices are examined for their impact on N and P loss and crop yield:

Crops: Corn-soybean and continuous corn.

Management Practices: Conventional drainage, controlled drainage, shallow drainage and no artificial drainage.


Funders:  This project was initially established with funding from a Iowa Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA-NRCS. This project was also part of a National Conservation Innovation Grant. This research is part of a regional collaborative project supported by USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture, award number 2011-68002-30190, “Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems,” project website:, as well as award number 2015-68007-23193, “Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes,” project website:

Disclaimer:  This is an active research site, please contact the research team prior to planning any site visits.