Podcast Episode 64

Agricultural Water Management 101: An Educational MVP

With Guest:
  • Kent Rodelius of Prinsco, Ag Market Relationship Manager

Agricultural water management can be very misunderstood outside the ag industry. It’s so much more than just draining water off land. In today’s episode of The Water Table, industry expert, Kent Rodelius joins Jamie for a conversation about a tool that has helped thousands of people understand agricultural water management a little better, and what the next level might look like.

Episode 64 | 13 min

Guest Bio

Kent Rodelius has been in the water management industry for nearly 40 years. He started his career at Prinsco and has helped build strong relationships, grow sales and develop key partnerships for the company. Kent is the current President of the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) and has a passion for staying informed on regulatory and legislative issues. He is a strong advocate for enhanced conservation practices designed to address the environmental challenges currently facing producers.

Jamie Duininck (00:02):

This is The Water Table.

Kent Rodelius (00:05):

A chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie Duininck (00:09):

A place for people to go find information and education.

Speaker 3 (00:13):

Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie Duininck (00:19):

How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent Rodelius (00:22):

I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:31):

Welcome back to The Water Table podcast. I have Kent Rodelius back with me by popular demand, and Kent, want to just talk a little bit today about agricultural water management. And back in, I don’t know, maybe a half a dozen or so years ago, Prinsco released a YouTube animated video called Agricultural Water Management 101, and it really was the basics of how a system works. We’ve had a lot of views on that. I think it’s well over a 100,000 views over the years of people that just are trying to explain to customers, to landowners, to the general public, how does this work? They pull up the animated video and just let that talk for itself. But I wanted to talk about that just a little bit on the podcast and explain how a system works, talk about that. Then we’ve got some fun news about that series of agriculture water management videos coming, too, that we’ll talk about. But I know you’ve been quite involved in and shared that with a lot of people over the years of, hey, watch this video, sent them the link, those kind of things, so talk a little bit about that.

Kent Rodelius (01:50):

It really is interesting how popular that video became, that YouTube video we did on Drainage 101. I think we’re really pleased with the information we got out, how that turned out. It really helps you to just grasp the understanding of just the basics of a drainage system. I’ve said it many times, this whole water management business kind of flies under the radar of most people unless you’re involved in the farm and then you understand it pretty well. But I’ve talked and given this video link to my duck hunting friends that are anti drainage, and I’ve given it to neighbors and people I just come in contact that want to understand it, and it really enables them to grasp what’s going on underneath the water. Being out of sight is really an advantage and a disadvantage for what we’re doing by managing the water table, and that’s a much more accurate description of what we do rather than drainage. It’s managing the water table.

Jamie Duininck (02:56):

Yeah, and when you say that, that’s exactly what we do is manage the water table. But that’s also the most misunderstood part, I think, for the average person or the general public is, what does that mean to manage the water on a agricultural field?

Kent Rodelius (03:12):

Well, if you put a drainage water management system on your farm where you set the level of your main and your laterals is where the water’s going to be. The water doesn’t drain below those laterals and mains to much degree at all. So you’re not having all the water run in and rush out of your system. It’s, rather, a pretty slow process as it percolates. The rain and moisture percolates through the soil down into the laterals, the small lines that then run to the main. It takes quite a bit of time. Over the years, an observance I’ve made is that in an area where it’s heavily tiled, the rivers and ditches come up and down slowly. The water enters slowly and leaves slowly. It’s up and down. But if there’s not much drainage, then the water’s running across the surface of the land. The creeks and rivers are up quickly and then down quickly, and there’s a much, much higher degree of erosion.

Jamie Duininck (04:11):

In the video it talks about… I think it’s in the video, but it talks about drainage coefficient. We talk about that often in our business. Explain drainage coefficient, because you’re talking a little bit about that when you say that it takes a lot longer when there’s pipe in the ground for it to percolate through into the pipe.

Kent Rodelius (04:31):

Drainage coefficient is how much water you try to remove from your field within 24 hours. Probably the most common drainage coefficient that systems are designed on is three eighths of an inch. Some watersheds require to only be a quarter of an inch, but it regulates how quickly the water comes into the system and how quickly it leaves the system. Once a crop sits in water for 24 hours, you start losing dramatically the yield potential of that crop. So the purpose of it is to get the water off, but to do it well so you’re not losing all of your chemicals, or your nutrients, or having runoff and erosion.

Jamie Duininck (05:13):

Yeah, and that’s really just you dictate the drainage coefficient by the size of the pipe. The size of your outlet or your main line is a lot of that. So, like you said, a lot of the drainage coefficients we’ll see is three eighths of an inch most common, quarter inch, sometimes a half inch probably quite a bit more rarely. But in those cases, what they’re saying is, if you design your drainage system this way, you will see three eighths of an inch of rain removed in a 24 hour period. But then that system is continuously working.

(05:51):

So yeah, I think that’s something that the general public doesn’t necessarily understand. It’s good to know about water table management. And like we talked about, that’s what drainage is, is managing the water table. Another aspect of that, and we’ve talked about this before on The Water Table, but is the whole makeup of soil, which is the ideal makeup is that your ground would contain 50% soil, 25% water, and 25% air. Talk a little bit more about that.

Kent Rodelius (06:26):

Well, I’ve said it many times that unless you manage your water and have those three things in order in your soil, it’s really hard to take advantage of all the new genetics we have and all the fertilizers. Unless that’s in control, and it’s a healthy soil, and it’s able to percolate through the soil at the right rate, you really can’t farm your land to its highest potential, and that’s what that coefficient does is manage that and allow that farmer, that landowner, to have a much… I say that a lot of times that a drainage system is a risk mitigator.

Jamie Duininck (07:07):

You see that throughout much of the Midwest this year. 2022 has been pretty dry through the summer and the fall. Now here in the upper Midwest we’ve gotten recent rains, and that entire soil profile from if there is drainage or not, but if there is drainage from the three-and-a-half, four-and-a-half feet, whatever, how deep that pipe is to the surface, there’s a lot of capacity when all that soil is dry to hold water. So you’re seeing a half inch to a couple inches of rain here in the last few days, and that’s just soaking in and you’re not seeing a change in the level of streams and rivers yet because that soil has that storage capacity. We talk about that a little bit, too, in 101. But having the storage capacity is really important. And that’s another thing, that it’s happening now naturally because the ground is dry. But when the ground is wet and you continue to receive timely rains, that drainage system is taking it away, so that allows for that soil profile to continue to store water.

Kent Rodelius (08:23):

The amount of water that’s falling now is really critical to what’s been happening in the upper Midwest. We’ve been really dry, and now with this timely rains we’ve had, that’s really allowing us to recharge the soil profile. What those drainage systems do is they allow the soil to store much more water. It’s not, like I said, running off. It’s got great capacity. You have to think of it as a sponge. That water in that field can be absorbed and stored until there’s too much, and then it runs out the main, and then it fills up the creek, and then it fills up the wetland and the lakes. It’s just a slow-down process for managing water that is much, much healthier for soil health and just for the environment.

Jamie Duininck (09:09):

Yeah. And for those that are listening today or watching this podcast, I think a lot of this, if you watch the video, the Drainage 101 or Agricultural Water Management 101, it’ll be pretty self explanatory. But it’s the part we’ve been talking about that’s always the challenge is just the storage of water in that soil profile and managing the water table in that soil profile. Just as we close here on this segment, I wanted to mention we are going to be continuing with another animated video, kind of a Drainage 102 or 201. I’m not sure what we’re going to call it, but that really talks about the next level of technical things you can do on your farm to manage your water. And you’ve been pretty involved in that, Kent. But talk a little bit about that drainage water management and lift stations, things like that that we’re going to add into this next video.

Kent Rodelius (10:07):

That’s exactly right, Jamie. Over the last 10 years, we’ve really adopted some really great tools for water drainage management. There are things that are starting to gain quite a bit of popularity. I think that at some point we’re going to see some of these things mandated to us, so we might as well jump on board and get ahead of them. But it really has to do with holding water on the farm, on that field, until we can utilize it. When we control the drainage at the end of a main, we’re able to store a lot of water in the soil profile. You only need that water so many days out of the year, but when you need it, you really need it. So it’s becoming popular both environmentally and economically. We’re seeing quite a good adoption of these practices.

Jamie Duininck (10:57):

Yeah, yeah. So we don’t need to share a lot more about that, but I just wanted to give a little teaser that Pinsco’s going to be releasing another higher level, more information, more education on that drainage water management or agricultural water management video series. I just encourage people to watch it, learn more, and be able to educate others with it. So thanks, Kent, for joining me today and for talking a little bit about Agricultural Water Management 101 and all the benefits that we’ve seen through just educating people on what we do.

Kent Rodelius (11:35):

Well, there’s exciting times ahead, and I think that our website at The Water Table, you can see most of those practices. There’s five or six of them that are pretty critical, and there’s five or six of them that are really easy to adopt. I think that as farmers are encouraged more and more, and I think it’s sometimes incentivized to do this, it’s going to be things that make a real difference in our environment.

Jamie Duininck (12:04):

For sure. For sure. And more to come on all of that. Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table.

Kent Rodelius (12:10):

Thanks, Jamie. I would really encourage people to watch this video by Prinsco. You can find it on YouTube. It’s a great explanation. It really clears up some misunderstandings and gives you a good understanding of what’s going on with water management underneath the ground.

Jamie Duininck (12:28):

Thanks for joining us today on The Water Table. You can find us at watertable.ag. Find us on Facebook. You can find us on Twitter, and you can also find the podcast on any of your favorite podcast platforms.