To date, the Statelers have installed 17 drainage water management control structures and plan to add more as dollars permit. Each structure with gates can cost between $1,000 and upwards of $3,000 to install.“The way I'm planning to recoup my investment is twofold,” Duane says. “One is just being able to keep my nutrients where they belong. Second, I have more control over the availability of the water in fields now, and when I can manage that water effectively there's the opportunity of seeing my yields increase.” Corn yields across the farm currently average between 200 and 210 bushels, while soybeans average about 65 bushels per acre. Because of the environmental benefits provided, Ferrie tells farmers to explore the availability of services that will help them cost-share the installation of water control structures. “If you could hold back water that fell on your field in the winter, keep it through spring and early summer, and then use it in late June or July, that can result in a yield benefit as well as a reduction in lost nutrients. That can also help cover the cost of the purchase and installment,” Ferrie says. He adds that in the last three years (2016 through 2018) CropTech has on average seen a 10-bushel-per acre increase in corn yields and a 3-bushel-per-acre increase in soybeans, as a result of managing a water table with tile gates. Duane Stateler takes the long view, hoping that his family’s efforts will help ensure his grandchildren are the seventh generation to farm his ground. “Any way you can prevent water from leaving your fields and taking valuable nutrients with it is something that needs to be explored for the sake of farming today and in the future,” he says.
At A Glance: The conservation measures Duane and Anthony Stateler have implemented include cover crops, a phosphorus removal bed, variable rate manure application, edge-of-field monitoring, drainage water management, and a wetland with pollinator habitat. The program is a joint effort between three Ohio farmers, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and more than a dozen formal and informal partnerships with farm organizations, conservation groups, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and community groups. The $1-million-dollar, five-year initiative goes through 2020.