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New soil and water conservation practice should improve water qualityNew soil and water conservation practice should improve water quality

Water and sediment control basins may look different in the future.

Tom Bechman 1

February 3, 2015

2 Min Read

The big push across much of Indiana, especially southern Indiana, over the past 30 years was to install water and sediment control basins, called wascobs for short, in rolling fields to help prevent soil from being lost. The theory was that when soil was lost, nutrients attached to the soil would be lost too.

Related: Hoosiers Complete 25,000 Conservation Practices in One Year

The theory is still true. However, Jane Hardisty, state conservationist in Indiana for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, says that new information is leading to new technology.


Wascobs are basically small earthen dams with a riser pipe that leads to an underground tile line. Most have been designed so that farmers could still drive and farm over them. Occasionally there was a need for a larger wascob which would have grass on the back side and which farmers would plant around.

The wascobs do a good job of collecting sediment. Instead of washing off the field, the flow of water is stopped, breaking its flow down the slope, and some soil may accumulate in the dry dam, as they're also known.

"The emphasis is on water quality today," Hardisty says. "We've learned that a form of phosphorus can dissolve in the water instead of attaching to soil particles. It's a small percentage of the amount applied but it's enough to get into lakes and streams."

When it ends up in big bodies of water, like Lake Erie, it causes algae blooms, which in turn can produce toxins. That's a problem if a large city is drawing its drinking water from the Lake. It happened in Toledo, Ohio, last summer. The weekend shutdown of the city water system made waves which are still reverberating.

Related: Handle Residue Piles Before You Till or Plant

Wascobs which are in place will be left alone, Hardisty notes. But in the future a different practice, known as a blind inlet, may be used. Basically it has more cover instead of letting water run directly into the riser that is a direct source into the tile and the creek or stream.

"We've realized that the riser that connected directly to the tile line could allow water with nutrients like phosphorus in it to enter the tile and then travel into the creek or stream through the tile outlet. Newer practices are being designed to help address that issue, she notes.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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