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New ditcher drains fields

Illinois flatland farmers create drainage banks to halt replanting.

For as long as landowners in Jamaica Township, Vermillion County, IL, can remember, they have had a problem with standing water in their planted crops.

"We tried all the known methods, and we always had crops drown out," says Joel Taylor, a farmer in the county. "We had resigned ourselves to replanting year after year."

The road commissioner was just as frustrated. A road that crossed the wet fields was often under water. During one particular rainy season, it didn't dry out for 32 days.

Then early this year, Taylor saw a new larger rotary ditcher being operated and knew that someone had finally devised a solution for his township's persistent water problem.

Rotary giant. This powerful ditcher, built by Watershed Management Company of Mt. Sterling, OH, can peal out a notch 4 ft. wide by 20 in. deep in a single pass.

It moves soil at a rate of 8 yds./min. at a cost of $0.30 to $0.50/yd. That makes it more efficient than a pan scraper, which will move 2 yds./min. at a cost of $2/yd.

The ditcher's main flywheel, made from 1-in.-thick steel, is 8 ft. in diameter. The wheel mounts eight diagonal digger buckets, each of which weighs 120 lbs. Inside the wheel housing is a replaceable steel wear band.

The flywheel is turned up to 170 rpms, and it will throw out soil as far as 150 ft. The ditcher also can deflect the soil down into a berm or throw it onto trucks.

The ditcher has blades on both sides, which can be hydraulically raised or lowered, to cut and deflect soil into the wheel. When these blades are used with the wheel, the ditcher can leave a signature 10 ft. wide by 20 in. deep. When deeper or wider cuts are needed, more passes are made with the machine.

Remedy for replanting. Using the rotary ditcher, along with topographical mapping and laser guidance, Watershed Management created the waterways and road ditches for the surface drainage of some 410 acres of Jamaica Township farmland and more than 1 mile of roadway.

The ditcher threw cut soil 150 ft. to the sides of the main waterway, creating gently sloping drainage banks that were planted in soybeans (see photo).

But the main benefits of the surface drainage were that the road stayed clear and the field crops stayed dry.

"In this first year, our heaviest rain was 3 in.," Taylor says. "[The waterways and ditches] drained the farmland and the road in 5 hrs. No water was left standing, and the crop needed no replanting at all."

For more information, contact Watershed Management Co., Dept. FIN, 10460 S R 56 S.E., Mt. Sterling, OH 43143, 740/852-5607.

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