South Dakota NRCS releases Agricultural Drainage Decision Tool

The South Dakota USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has released a new tool for use in drainage tile decisions. The Agricultural Drainage Decision Tool is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet tool that works as a quick analysis to determine if the installation of pattern tile or spot tile will provide the farmer increased or decreased profitability. The tool and tables give the user pre-drainage and post-drainage net profitability, an estimate of years-to-payback, and a compilation of acres of potential benefit and acres of little to no benefit. Yield results for the tool are based on the Crop Productivity Index of each soil map component. Increases in yields are research-based according to component drainage class.

"When a producer elects to increase drainage, a better understanding of the differences in drainage potential and of managing soils that respond to drainage, is more likely to result in a favorable outcome for the farmer," explains Jeff Zimprich, state conservationist for the NRCS, Huron. This new tool is a general representation of the economics associated with installing drainage and the assumed increases in yield due to the proposed drainage and should not be considered a final economic analysis. "The hope is for this tool to be a conversation starter," says Mark Larson, hydraulic engineer for the NRCS, Huron. For a no-cost personalized evaluation, contact your local NRCS Service Center. Zimprich explains, "So when you talk with NRCS specialists, they can help you with how to use the tool to obtain a private, unbiased evaluation for which practices will work best for your operation’s profitability and for the long-term management of natural resources."

Producers who wish to try the tool for themselves can find it on the electronic Field Office Technical Guide for South Dakota under Section I, Resource Evaluation Tools, 4. Engineering. The eFOTG can be found at

"It is important to fully understand the capabilities of the land and what it can handle before making decisions, and especially decisions with financial expenditures such as tiling," emphasizes Zimprich. "The ‘homework’ that this Tool does gives a realistic comprehensive evaluation—it helps people to better know the capabilities of the soils in their fields and what they can expect to happen to profitability as a result of increased drainage," he explained. For more information regarding the ADDT, Mark Larson can be reached at 605-352-1209 or via e-mail at [email protected].