Almost all actively used pastures, regardless of their topography and geographical location, suffer from mechanical compaction. Short-term solutions include both mechanical applications (aerating, sub-soiling, cultivating, and plowing) and chemical applications. Besides continuous impact of heavy weight from animals and machinery, the combination of excessive water and gravity effectively can compact sub-soil into an impervious layer. Not only does that layer eventually prevent the passage of air and water but also roots. Thus, before constantly re-investing money into short-term solutions, John suggests considering a long-term solution of aggressive, sub-surface drainage systems.
An effective, properly installed, sub-surface drainage system basically frees the landowner from remaining victim to Mother Nature’s whims. Within hours after torrential rainfalls, a well-drained pasture/field can be worked mechanically. Moreover, good drainage, in connection with good ph balances, contributes to continued growth of micro-organisms, organics, and worms – all natural combatants to mechanical compaction.
Golf courses make money only when their courses are playable. Thus, as a group, they have created a demand for effective drainage systems enabling immediate play after rain storms. Numerous, specifically manufactured drainage systems (all based upon the well proven and accepted French Drain concept) have been developed. Now, when installed, golfers and managements no longer have to wait for several days of good, dry weather before resuming play. Within a half an hour after a down pour, the golf course’s major asset continues to generate income. These same recent products effectively can be applied to pasture/fields, offering the landowner similar returns in the form of savings on maintaining a very high quality of soil and, therefore, feed.
As builder/contractor for thirty years, John has installed many effective, on-site constructed French Drainage systems. With the arrival of these pre-manufactured products/systems, John has collected the necessary equipment to effectively install them in large open areas. Besides using various bucket widths for his excavator for high volume systems, John has converted a 4” wide, hydraulically driven trencher into an attachment for his tractor which quickly digs a trench up to 4’ depth designed for installing smaller volume systems. Digging is easy with any trencher, but filling accurately with specific sand becomes laboriously expensive, especially if the ditch meanders with curves. Thus, John has reduced that cost by mounting a road-sander backwards on a heavy-duty trailer. It drops two yards of masonry sand precisely into a small 4”-wide trench. Moreover, to control the exact slope within severe limitations imposed by the height of area to be drained and the depth of the nearest drainage ditch, John mounts a dual-slope laser receiver on either his trencher or excavator.
To smooth out large areas of either sloped or flat surfaces, as final preparation for planting new cover crops, John found a 10’ “land-leveler” that surgically removes bumps and fills indentations, similar to large road scrapers. He also employs an 8’ roto-tiller to pulverize the topsoil one time into a fluffy, perfect pre-planting texture.
For “sprigging” specific grasses, after the sprigs have been lightly disked into the soil, John increases the sprig-to-soil contact with an 8’ culti-packer. To ensure the immediate needed moisture soon after planting sprigs, he use a 200-gallon, 3-point sprayer which covers a width of 20’.