Mike Werling had a ditch that needed to be repaired. The groove down the middle was beginning to get sharper than he liked. Soil conservation staff was looking for a spot in northeast Indiana to demonstrate how a two-stage ditch works. It soon became a good fit, and Werling, Decatur, now has a functioning two-stage ditch on his farm.
"I like to try new things as they come along, so I was up for working with them," he says. Werling also has a Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative plot on his farm, and one of 12 hub farms in Indiana for the soil health project through CCSI. Lisa Holscher oversees the project.
You've read about two-stage ditches and seen pictures of them during construction, but you may not have seen one in action. Werling's two-stage ditch was working as it should just a few days ago, collecting water from a late-season snow that melted and holding it on the shelf that makes up the "second stage" of the ditch. The normal channel is the first stage.
The idea is to slow the flow of water, and give more time for nutrients or sediment to settle out. Werling felt that the ditch was working as it was supposed to, since the shelf, several feet wide, was covered in water, with water moving slowly toward the outlet waterway on the border of the field.
"It's worked well so far," he says. "Local soils people wanted someone to put one in so they could get more experience seeing how it worked, and it fit my needs as well. So it worked out well for everybody in this case."
Expect to see more two-stage ditches recommended as cost-share projects as soil conservation technicians and specialists get more experience with them. The two-stage ditch at Roger Werling's farm should help them get a better handle on how the two-stage ditch functions when in action.