Podcast Episode 0

Welcome to the Water Table

With Guest:
  • Kent Rodelius of Prinsco

Jamie sits down with Kent Rodelius, a 37 year veteran of the Water Management industry. They talk about why they are doing this podcast, the history of water management, and touch on some of the key issues the industry is facing.

Episode 0 | 18:18 min
The two biggest risks to a farmer are drought and too much water."
— Kent Rodelius

Guest Bio

Kent Rodelius has been in the water management industry for over 37 years – all of them at Prinsco, helping to build strong relationships, grow sales, and develop key partnerships. Kent is a strong advocate for enhanced conservation practices designed to address the environmental challenges currently facing producers. He also has a passion for staying informed on regulatory and legislative issues which led him to testify before the U.S. House of Ag Committee. Kent is the acting President of the ADMC and is highly involved on both the state and national LICA.

Jamie  0:02  
This is the water table.

The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues

A place for people to go find information and education.

It’s important to get that non biased viewpoint from research.

How misunderstood, what we do is in the general public.

Kent  0:22  
I would encourage people to open their minds and Listen to this dialogue.

Jamie  0:28  
Welcome. Hello, my name is Jamie Duininck, the host of the water table podcast, I’m super excited to start this journey. This is something I’ve been thinking about in the back of my mind for some time now. And the fact that it is now happening is really exciting and energizing to me. The purpose of this podcast is really to just have a place for people to go find information and education, on water management and water quality in agriculture. The plan is to release a couple episodes a month, that will be 30 to 60 minutes long, most of the episodes will feature a guest. In this podcast series, you will find topics like water quality in ag, crop health, system design, technical issues and agricultural water management, safety in our industry, the economic impact of managing the water on the farm and so much more. Today, I have Kent Rodelius with me, Kent is a longtime actually a 36 year employee of Prinsco, and has just a vast variety of industry experience, and so much history. So it’s fun to fun to do this with Kent. And so welcome, Kent. 

Kent  1:43  
Thank you, Jamie, it’s a pleasure to be here and to talk about some water quality issues and some challenges in our industry and on the farm. So it’s there is a lot of history with farm drainage, great legacy of how they built this nation out and how we’ve managed water on the farm to increase crop yield and productivity at the same time.

Jamie  2:06  
So it Kent as you think about the journey that we’re starting with this podcast series and where we can go with here for educating not only our customers and those interested learn more about water management on the farm, but also educating the public. You know, what, what excites you What are maybe just one or two of the topics that we’re going to be talking about over the next year that that you’re really energized about? 

Kent  2:34  
Well, I think it’s really critical that people have a chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues. There’s a real challenge with, with what the perception of ag drainage is or as we like to refer to it as water table management. People don’t understand what we do when we’re moving water off the farm and what happens to that water. So it’s, it would be nice to give people a clearer view of what’s happening to that water and why, why farmers and ag ag producers are are putting in so much tile at this time. And what the what that does for them. The other side of it is water quality, there are some things that are a challenge for for water table management. And we have some real exciting things happening in water quality by using water drainage management.

Jamie  3:25  
You know, one of the things that as I listen to you and as I think about, you know, our history of you K ent and myself together that I can get really excited about is we we certainly do not have all the answers. But we’ve been put in a position where we have been in the industry long enough that we know where to go for many of the answers. And so I’m excited about bringing guests in on a variety of topics, but we’re going to bring in people from from land grant universities and people that are PhDs in material science, we’re going to bring in, you know, experts in in our industry and the law side and some of the drainage law that happens nationally and so that I think, you know, we can be a conduit to the information into the education that people are yearning for. 

Kent  4:18  
And that’s one thing Prinsco has always thought was important is to have connections to the industry, and to the researchers and to what’s going on in our business. So we’ve tried to build out relationships and have access to people so we can hear from the horse’s mouth, what’s going on. We can impact the industry, we can study we can find studies, and we can develop answers and help with solutions to some of the challenges that we have. There’s there’s no doubt that what we do on the farm impacts other people. And so to be able to have those kinds of resources and those kinds of minds to pick and people to talk to is really been informative and what we do with Prinsco. 

Jamie  5:02  
It’s, it’s what I know, we’ve talked about it between the two of us enough to know, it’s what one of the things that drives both of us is just the energy that we get from the relationships we’ve built over time in our industry, from other industry folks from customers, and the passion that that they have, in what they do. And so if this is something that we can help, you know, in some ways, give back in bringing some education, and bringing some resources for them to find some of the specific things that that they’re looking for, that they don’t know about, they want to learn so they can, they can serve their customer better. That’s part of what this is about. And part of what I think drives both of us to, to continue to bring content and guest speakers to this podcast. 

Kent  5:54  
I agree. And it’s, it’s good to get the independent sources from the from the researchers and the projects that they’ve done or have ongoing, it’s important to get that non biased viewpoint from research, not just something that a tile company like Prinsco will benefit from, but what benefits everybody who works in agriculture.

Jamie  6:17  
So Kent as you being kind of a godfather of our industry, so to speak, and having such a vast knowledge, would you be willing to just give a little, a little bit of a history of drainage in North America and what’s, how it’s come to where it is today? 

Kent  6:37  
Sure, very early on, the people that came from Europe came to North America immigrated, and they understood drainage. As they came and settled West, they cleared more land. And they understood what drainage did. And for the most part, you know, that was ditching, I’d say, the big era, in the upper Midwest, where where we concentrate today, was done in the 1920s to 1950s, it’s important to remember that from like 1950, to the mid 70s, the NRCS, or what used to be the SCS actually incentivize farmers strongly to drain wetlands. If you remember how hard those people worked, a lot of that was dug in by hand. And that was just hard work. The other one of the other really interesting things has been to watch the installation, process change, and the technology that has come to this industry, and how we’re able to put tile in the ground now so much more economically, and accurately. So, I came to work in 1983. And in December of 1985, the Swamp Buster provision was passed. And that really changed a lot of things in the drainage industry. And even to this day, people often wonder about that, or ask about it. But every tile project has to be permitted by some agency, you can’t just go out and do whatever you want to do. It’s highly regulated. And it’s it’s fairly complex and complicated. So that’s, that’s kind of the history of where we are today is it’s it’s very often soft, played, how much how critical the process of water table management is for soil erosion, for storing water in the soil profile, like I mentioned, for increase in production, there’s the traffic ability, you can get it and plant earlier in the spring and you can get your crop out in the fall even if it’s wet. So there’s, it’s been really fun to watch the evolution of this industry over the years. 

Jamie  8:41  
You said so much there and those few minutes, you know, around talking about what what happened in our industry back before 1985 and before the Swamp Buster bill and how that was encouraged. And it was actually even incentivized for the farmers to do much of that drainage and, and how that led up to where we are today where we’re farming the best and buffering the rest. And, and it’s exciting, but but it leads back to you know, a real reason to do this podcast and that is how misunderstood, what we do is in the general public and, and even even in certain areas of the farm industry. And areas such as the Red River Valley of Minnesota, North Dakota, where many of the people that live rurally might not be farmers but live or rurally really don’t understand what we do we think they think that, you know, this, this drainage is causing flooding and and when you’re, you know, part of what you said earlier is how we’re storing water in the soil profile. So all of that as I listened to I just get excited about all of the topics that can come out of out of this podcast series as we go along and how much education I think we can do for, for the vast majority of people that, that have an interest, whether it’s because they’re a customer, or they just want to learn more about what we do in our industry and how we can provide for, for a better environment.

Kent  10:17  
Those are great points, Jamie. And one other thing that I would mention is that one thing that goes largely unnoticed is the amount of wetlands that have been restored. And like with any industry, there’s some things that are done and mistakes made. And there were some areas where farmers tide tried to drain land. And it was just to lower it just didn’t work very well. And they have now voluntarily gone back in and restored those wetlands. So there’s, there’s actually a really large gain of net wetlands in in the states in the upper Midwest. One of the technicalities is that you can’t call them restored wetlands because they’re not permanent because a farmer could change that again, but nevertheless, they are there’s thousands and thousands of acres that have been restored voluntarily by farmers doing the right thing. 

Jamie  11:08  
Absolutely. And, and again, you don’t hear about that. What we’re seeing and is now very publicized is that the farm community is really restoring wetlands, like you said, that might not be publicized, because of the fact that that they’re not on a permanent basis, but they’re restoring them through all of the different programs that most of them coming through the Farm Bill.

Kent  11:34  
One of the things I think we take for granted up here in the upper Midwest, is the quality of the soil we have in this area, we have some of the best absolute best soil in the world. And this is the breadbasket of the United States. And it should be farmed, it’s, it’s so much more efficient, to farm the good land and farm it well and used use water table management, good crop science, good, good seed, good agronomy, all those things make make the crop yield just phenomenal. 

Jamie  12:06  
Absolutely not in you know, what you didn’t say is all the rain we get up here and all how fortunate we are with, with water also, which is which creates an industry for us on one hand, but also as you know, we’re super fortunate to have the opportunity to even even what manage our water because we have enough and in some cases too much. 

Kent  12:30  
Yeah, we have. I like to always say we have the luxury of too much water up here. And that’s it, that’s a great problem to have. But the two greatest risks to a farmer are drought and too much water. And right now it’s it’s really too much water cutting into the crop production. You know, once a crop stands for more than 24 hours in water, the field potential that crop is highly diminished.

Jamie  12:54  
Yeah, exactly. And what we what we hope to bring, you know, to this series is, is the opportunity to hear about what’s going on and what’s in development from a science perspective. At these Universities, that’s just another another aspect, we’re going to be able to bring in denitrifying. wetlands and storing water in the soil profile. 

Kent  13:14  
And Iowa State has done a lot of work to denitrifying wet wetlands and some of that’s gaining some pretty, pretty strong foothold again. Now, it’s kind of a win win because you can, you can take a small portion out of a watershed and build some some natural wetlands and that you can build a very high quality wetland now you could build a small percentage of that hole which wetland in a low area and run all the tile water, all the drainage water all the surface all the surface water through that through that wetland. And it’s there isn’t a better way to take the nitrogen out of the water than there is by one running it through a wetland. That’s exactly what a wetland does is scrub the scrub the nitrates out of that water. And so there’s there’s great energy in that and there’s there’s a real upside to that as you’re building habitat, just for conservation, for for hunting, for recreation, just for enjoying the outdoors. So denitrifying wetlands, I think you’re gonna hear a lot more about them in the near future. 

Jamie  14:20  
And there you heard it from the guy on the ground for the last almost four decades and hopefully, through this series, we’ll be able to hear more about that from from the actual PhDs and experts as we as we interview them. So let’s get one of the things we want to establish with this podcast is kind of a parting question and we call it the the water table takeaway. What would your parting thoughts be?

Kent  14:52  
I would encourage people to just open their minds and listen to this dialogue and try and understand the on farm perspective to some of the issues that we’re going to try and handle, we want to do it honestly and openly for sure. And we’re not saying that we’re, we’re not without challenges in the water table management business. But we do have a lot of solutions, and practices that can help on the farm. And we need both the farmers to join in lockstep with us. and examine those, those practices, I’m talking about a lot of drainage water management practices, because you can’t treat what you don’t manage. And so just the free flow of, of tile lines is probably something that we need to look at and talk about pretty clearly, there’s a lot of things out there on the forefront that are going to be challenges for this industry to meet. But we do have a lot of research and a lot of ongoing projects. So just stay tuned. And like I said, try and keep an open mind and see both sides. 

Jamie  15:57  
Right. And, you know, as you as you shared your thoughts on that, you know, brings up something you and I have talked about before, in regards to this series is is almost like an opportunity for people that are listening to to learn something to become educated in a topic that they maybe don’t need to know today, but that we can have this library out there that as as things come up as time goes on and, and potentially regulation changes or, or their perception changes or their their practices, if they’re a contractor or changing they can come back to some of these episodes and say, you know, I remember that episode, I’m gonna go find it that that talked with had a guest on this subject. So that’s another reason why I’m and listening to your your final thoughts or why I’m excited about this is there will be topics that maybe aren’t prevalent today for everybody, but they will be in the future.

Kent  16:59  
So there’s there’s both a lot of challenges and a lot of answers in the industry we work in. There is no question that we face some challenges to remove nitrates and phosphates from the water. We do have a lot of exciting practices that can treat that both of those elements and we need to explore them and talk through them. And this is a good forum to do that. There are some exciting things are happening in our industry with drainage water management and on site practices and edge of field practices that I think we have some answers that we can bring to the to the ag community.

Jamie  17:37  
So hopefully this is a good overview of what’s to come in the water table podcast series. Again, Kent and I are really excited to bring this to you. You can find us at any of your favorite podcast platforms. Also our website is watertable.com also Facebook and Twitter. And please share this, this episode and upcoming episodes with friends, people that you might think are interested and those that need to be educated on what we do in our industry. We need to get this information out there. Thank you