Dealing with wet soils

In the southwest part of the province wet soils generally have not been a problem lately but across Ontario heavy rains and isolated storms have dropped significant rainfall in some areas this spring and summer. In some cases, this is causing dramatic soil erosion and lots of standing water in fields. At this point there may be only limited things you can do.

1. Wet soils:

Release excess water from fields as you can, but while you are waiting for fields to dry take a moment to mark the problem areas. There are a number of water control devices that can be installed to reduce the standing water problem in the future while protecting the ditch bank. Consider:

  • Perforated Riser Pipe (Hickenbottom is one brand) - similar to a catch basin this structure should be connected to a dedicated tile line that empties in the ditch. Perforated riser pipe will pond the water for a short period of time (sizing of pipe will determine this - most are sized to pond for about 24 hours), allowing sediment to drop out of the water. The sediment can be scraped away later. Often a berm may be needed to help capture the water. This system still depends on having an outlet for the water - if the ditch is full there is nowhere for the water to go.
    Also - take note of where the low spot is. A drop inlet on the edge of the wet area or installed where it is convenient and won't get in the way but not in the center of the low spot usually is not effective!
  • Rock Chute Spillway - basically stabilizes the bank where the water flow naturally breaks through. Usually 5 to 6 foot wide and 10 feet long for simple ditches. Needs filter cloth and quarry stone to hold soil. (Quarry stone is different - the rough not rounded edges means that the rocks will roll less and wedge in more tightly).

Cost for these structures varies greatly, check with local contractors for pricing. Both the above types of structures will help to reduce ditch bank erosion while removing water from the field quickly.

2. For the eroded areas:

  • Take a good look at the field and observe where the water has gone. In some cases old water flow patterns are visible. Over years fields have been joined together for more efficient cropping and windrows or windbreaks have been removed but often the old flow pattern is still there. Refer to the OMAFRA BMP booklet Controlling Soil Erosion on the Farm for suggestions.
  • Start with the basics - rebuild eroded areas by adding organic matter, reducing tillage and in extreme cases move eroded soil back to the eroded area. Avoid traffic and tillage on moist soils to prevent compaction. Create a plan to prevent further erosion.

Standing water and eroded soils are frustrating and time consuming to deal with. Put a plan in place to reduce the problem in the future.

Ponding is always a challenge with fast heavy rainfall events. The erosive action of the rain detaches fine soil particles like clays which will settle and seal off the soil further reducing the infiltration rate. Cover crops may help rehabilitate these areas.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca