ANNAPOLIS, MD – The Maryland Department of Agriculture has announced five new conservation drainage management practices that are now eligible for cost-share funding of up to 87.5% through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. The new suite of practices will help farmers manage subsurface drainage water in areas with high water tables or artificially drained fields. Once fully implemented, these practices will reduce sediment and nutrient losses from crop fields and help Maryland meet nutrient reduction targets for the Chesapeake Bay.
“The department is committed to giving farmers the tools they need to improve water quality and protect natural resources on their farms,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “Providing these new opportunities to help farmers manage nitrates in agricultural drainage water is just another example of how Maryland agriculture is working to meet our bay cleanup goals.”
Drainage ditches are common on the Eastern Shore, where a network of ditches covers a large area of the Delmarva Peninsula. The new practices are designed to enhance the water quality benefits of water control structures by collecting and treating the water before it enters a stream or drainage ditch.
The conservation drainage practices now eligible for funding and technical assistance include:
Saturated Buffers – A biological treatment system used to divert drainage water to a vegetated area for treatment;
Subsurface Denitrifying Bioreactors – A buried trench filled with a carbon source, usually wood chips, and installed at the edge of a field to remove nitrates;
Wetland Creations – A wetland constructed to treat and filter drainage water on a site that was not previously a wetland;
Subsurface Drain – An underground pipe used to collect and convey drainage water to a buffer, wetland, or bioreactor; and
Underground Outlet – Tubing, tile, or pipe installed to move surface water to a designated outlet.
Typically, a conservation drainage project will include the installation of a water control structure, subsurface water drainage collection system, and one of the newly cost-shared water treatment practices.. A Drainage Water Management Plan developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is required for all drainage conservation projects as a condition of the cost-share.
Interested farmers should contact their local soil conservation district to apply for conservation drainage grants and to receive free technical assistance to install a project. Applicants must be in good standing with the MACS Program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations. Other restrictions may apply. For more information, contact the department at 410-841-5864.