Controlled field drainage cuts water usage in Sweden's drought


Growing crops is a delicate task, and the water and nutrient levels of the soil will affect the final harvest significantly.

Like much of Europe (climate.gov), Sweden faced a unusually dry summer and drought conditions in 2018. Yet as sustained dry periods here are unusual, irrigation systems to deal with them are too. So the Swedish harvest has been much lower than usual – the Lantmännen agricultural cooperative forecast the lowest yield in 25 years.

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Swedish radio recently reported on Bertil Aspernäs, a farmer (and former mathematician) who has nearly been unaffected by the drought since his farm uses controlled drainage. This reduces the need to add water and also minimizes the need to add additional nutrients.

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The drainage system has been developed with Ingrid Wesström at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who has also written a paper on it: “Controlled drainage – effects on drain outflow and water quality.“, the pdf can be found here.

The system is based on 0.5m in diameter drain pipes that is placed in the soil at a depth of 1m below ground and with a 10m spacing, forming a square pattern. The pipes leads to a control station that regulates the outflow.

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A wildfire at Alvdalen field in central Sweden, July 26, 2018. Maja Suslin/TT News Agency/via REUTERS
A wildfire at Alvdalen field in central Sweden, July 26, 2018. Maja Suslin/TT News Agency/via REUTERS
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