For more than a half-century, Midwest crop producers have installed subsurface drainage tiles as one-way streets to help remove excess water from their fields.



At a drainage workshop, Feb. 2-3 in Macon, Mo., contractors and farmers alike will learn how to design and install new agricultural drainage systems that can serve as two-way streets, providing drainage and subirrigation that can boost yields and protect water quality.



"These new systems are dramatically impacting yields and the word is getting out to farmers," said Debbie Dickens, executive director of the Missouri Land Improvement Contractors Association (MLICA). "Farmers are looking for
contractors to install systems, but no one is trained. We hope this workshop will help fill in the gap."



Much of the recent interest has been piqued by the success of the University of Missouri Drainage and Subirrigation project, known as MUDS, which uses a series of subsurface tiles to raise or lower a perched water table.



The integrated water management system allows Kelly Nelson, research agronomist at the MU Greenley Memorial Research Center in Knox County, to adjust the water table based on the needs of the crop.



Since it was installed in 2001, the MUDS system has been subjected to the vast array of growing season conditions that Missouri endures. And through the excessively wet springs, bone-dry summers and rain-laden falls, the system has proven to increase grain yields for both corn and soybeans.



"With drainage alone, we doubled our corn yields in 2005 compared to our control," Nelson said. "With drainage and subirrigation, we had more than a four-fold yield increase."



Nelson and other drainage design experts will be on hand throughout the workshop, which opens Feb. 2 with registration at 7:30 a.m. at the Comfort Inn, 1821 N. Missouri St., in Macon.



"In addition to hearing from the drainage experts, the participants will get hands-on experience and work through the design of basic systems for drainage," Dickens said. "They'll work individually and in teams so that they can learn from each other."



The program also will cover financial considerations of installing controlled drainage. Stephen Baker, president of Springfield Plastics of Auburn, Ill., will discuss "how much to charge to go broke," a topic contractors struggle with when billing for a new service, Dickens said.



Nelson said that there are an estimated 2 million acres in Missouri with an opportunity for controlled drainage. "These systems can reduce the environmental impacts of drainage by reducing nitrate-nitrogen loss through the drainage system," he said. "As cost-share opportunities for such improvements become available, we want Missouri to have the people trained to install them."



Cost for the two-day program is $199 for MLICA members and $249 for non-members for registrations postmarked by Jan. 20. An additional $50 fee is required for registrations postmarked after Jan. 20. Space is limited to 50 registrants. To see a complete workshop agenda and to register, go online to http://www.mlica.org/.



"As an added benefit and if the contractor wishes, we will apply $50 of a non-member's registration fee toward a MLICA contractor membership," Dickens added. "While we will provide participants with reference materials,
we ask that they bring a calculator, notepaper, pencils and pens."



Workshop sponsors include the Missouri Land Improvement Contractors Association, University of Missouri Extension, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agri Drain Corp., Hickenbottom, Inc., Missouri Corn Growers Association, Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc., Prinsco, Inc., Scheib Drainage Products, and Springfield Plastics, Inc.



For more information, contact Dickens at (573) 634-3001 or MLICA@aol.com.