Spring Rains and Tile Drains

Posted By HBFA | November 16, 2021

Jonathan Brookes

The spring season to date has started off like the last couple, not being over wet in late winter but ending up with regular spring rainfall topping up the soil to where field capacity in some locations is exceeded, and drainage events are occurring.

It is also the start of the AgFirst led Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund project “What’s Coming out of Tile Drains”.

We are all aware of how important tile drain systems are to the success of fruit growers, as significantly more trees die in Hawke’s Bay every year from excess water than from dehydration. As an industry we need to understand the behavior of tile systems with regard to flow and nutrient concentrations, which is the focus of this 3 year project. With an improved understanding of the impacts horticultural has on surface water quality we can finetune our practices around efficiency of water and nutrition, to ensure water quality is sustainable in the long term.

The project is only just underway, but we are already seeing some interesting differences in flow from September and October between the different tile drain monitoring sites.




The key messages so far are that tile drains systems are a lot more complicated than many people think and are very location specific. The more we understand them, the more likely we can manage water and nutrition on our properties to find the sweet spot that allows for optimum block performance outcomes as well as minimising our surface water effects, helping to ensure we keep our social license to keep doing what we do well – fruit growing.

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