Interest is growing in a product made by a Cedar Springs company that not only helps farmers boost crop yields, but can also improve water quality and reduce algae blooms in the Great Lakes.
Just Pipe and Fittings Inc. makes a product called a Water Control Structure that offers a new way to manage drainage water.
Launched last winter, the system allows the property owner to control the height of the water table based on his or her needs.
Evelynn Bryant, technical assistant, said the system consists of a high-density polyethylene pipe that holds several PVC plates called “stop-logs,” which work like a dam to hold the water back in the tiling system.
“You can remove them and place them as you see fit, based on where you’re at in the growing season,” said Bryant.
For example, the stop-logs could be removed before planting to allow the field to drain.
In areas prone to drought in the summer, the system can be used to hold the rain that fell earlier in the season and raise the water table up to the root zone of the plants.
“During the summer, quite often the water goes away too quickly, so it allows me to hold the water at a level so that roots can get a hold of it and keep the moisture they need as well,” said Scott Kilbride, who had the system installed on his farm near Wallaceburg in May.
While Kilbride has experienced some benefit from the system, he would have liked to have had more rain to hold back.
Still, his corn crop seems to be faring well during this season of spotty rainfall in his area.
“My plants aren’t showing any drought stress at this point because they’re still getting moisture from the water table as they were able to follow it down.”
Besides holding water and fertilizer in the field longer, the Water Control Structures have been shown to reduce the discharge rates of nitrates and phosphorous by up to 75%.
“One of the biggest contributing factors to our algae blooms is nitrates and phosphorous,” said Bryant. “If you can reduce the amount of nitrates going into our watershed, that’s going to make a huge difference. The longer you keep nutrients in the soil, the smaller amount of nutrients that run off.”
In addition to farmers, Bryant notes the structures have been supplied to various conservation authorities.
McGill University has also installed the units in several test fields across Ontario.
“For just having launched our product last winter, we are experiencing huge interest around this area,” said Bryant, noting that the company received a great response from people who visited their booth at the Chatham-Kent farm show in January.
While popular in the U.S. Midwest, the structures are beginning to attract attention in Canada.
Just Pipe is the sole manufacturer of the product in Ontario.
The Water Control Structure is part of a new line-up of several environmental products, including an Environmental Protection Valve that can be used in spill-prone areas to prevent pollutants from entering the watershed.
Another product, a Water Quality Unit, is used primarily in parking lots and municipal areas to treat storm water before it enters waterways.