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Draining The Soil

Categories: THE SOIL

A wise man was once asked, "What is the most valuable improvement ever

made in agriculture?" He answered, "Drainage." Often soils unfit for

crop-production because they contain too much water are by drainage

rendered the most valuable of farming lands.

Drainage benefits land in the following ways:

1. It deepens the subsoil by removing unnecessary water from the spaces

between the soil partic
es. This admits air. Then the oxygen which is in

the air, by aiding decay, prepares plant food for vegetation.

2. It makes the surface soil, or topsoil, deeper. It stands to reason

that the deeper the soil the more plant food becomes available for plant


3. It improves the texture of the soil. Wet soil is sticky. Drainage

makes this sticky soil crumble and fall apart.

4. It prevents washing.

5. It increases the porosity of soils and permits roots to go deeper

into the soil for food and moisture.

6. It increases the warmth of the soil.

7. It permits earlier working in spring and after rains.

8. It favors the growth of germs which change the unavailable nitrogen

of the soil into nitrates; that is, into the form of nitrogen most

useful to plants.

9. It enables plants to resist drought better because the roots go into

the ground deeper early in the season.

A soil that is hard and wet will not grow good crops. The

nitrogen-gathering crops will store the greatest quantity of nitrogen in

the soil when the soil is open to the free circulation of the air.

These valuable crops cannot do this when the soil is wet and cold.

Sandy soils with sandy subsoils do not often need drainage; such soils

are naturally drained. With clay soils it is different. It is very

important to remove the stagnant water in them and to let the air in.

When land has been properly drained the other steps in improvement are

easily taken. After soil has been dried and mellowed by proper drainage,

then commercial fertilizers, barnyard manure, cowpeas, and clover can

most readily do their great work of improving the texture of the soil

and of making it fitter for plant growth.

=Tile Drains.= Tile drains are the best and cheapest that can be used.

It would not be too strong to say that draining by tiles is the most

perfect drainage. Thousands of practical tests in this country have

proved the superiority of tile draining for the following reasons:

1. Good tile drains properly laid last for years and do not fill up.

2. They furnish the cheapest possible means of removing too much water

from the soil.

3. They are out of reach of all cultivating tools.

4. Surface water in filtering through the tiles leaves its nutritious

elements for plant growth.


=To show the Effect of Drainage.= Take two tomato cans and fill

both with the same kind of soil. Punch several holes in the bottom

of one to drain the soil above and to admit air circulation. Leave

the other unpunctured. Plant seeds of any kind in both cans and

keep in a warm place. Add every third day equal quantities of

water. Let seeds grow in both cans and observe the difference in

growth for two or three weeks.

=To show the Effect of Air in Soils.= Take two tomato cans; fill

one with soil that is loose and warm, and the other with wet clay

or muck from a swampy field. Plant a few seeds of the same kind in

each and observe how much better the dry, warm, open soil is for

growing farm crops.