Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why I'm tiling...

As fast as I can afford it.  I know, I know, global warming is a hoax and GHG's don't matter, but just in case...
Keith Cherkauer, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering, ran simulation models that show Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan could see as much as 28 percent more precipitation by the year 2070, with much of that coming in the winter and spring. His projections also show drier summer and fall seasons.
"This was already a difficult spring to plant because of how wet it was. If you were to add another inch or so of rain to that, it would be a problem," said Cherkauer, whose findings were published in the early online version of the Journal of Great Lakes Research. "It could make it difficult to get into fields. There's also a potential for more flooding."
Cherkauer used three different scenarios based on the amount of carbon that could be emitted into the atmosphere in the coming decades. Carbon calculations were based on assumptions including population, technological advancements, the economy and other factors.
Those scenarios were used in two climate projection models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that give climate predictions from the years 1950 through 2099. Cherkauer said in years from 1950 to 2007 where actual climate data differed slightly from projections, the difference was subtracted to give a better projection for the future.
He calculated that winters in the four states could be between 2.7 degrees to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2077 than today. Summers could be between 3.6 degrees and 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.
Those projections were then put into the Variable Infiltration Capacity Model -- which simulates how precipitation moves through land surface environments -- to predict stream flow for six rivers: the Chippewa River, Wisconsin River, Illinois River, Wabash River, Grand River and Rock River.
Cherkauer estimates that increased precipitation would result in about a 20 percent increase in peak and mean flows for the Wabash River, for instance.
Daily river flow would be lower during the summer and fall despite an expected increase in thunderstorms and heavy-rain events. Overall precipitation would be down in those seasons, he said, and heavy rains from time to time would still leave prolonged periods without precipitation. [More]

Sarcasm aside, my position follows a classic negotiation technique: when you can't agree, make a bet.  I'm betting my son and those who follow will benefit - perhaps immensely - from better drainage of our reclaimed swampy oak savanna given the rainfall projections.  If I lose the bet, I'm out several hundred thousand dollars (to date) that maybe have poor return on investment.

If I'm right, those fields will be comparatively more productive.

Other bets could be tillage methods, hybrid selection, and grain systems. To my way of thinking it's not "alarmism" if it's your own money.


Ol James said...

..glo-bull warming and GHG's shouldn't figure into the decision. It's what is good for the ground and future. Good decision Mr. John.

Anonymous said...

About 10 years ago our large family farm in IN purchased a tile plow and began installing lots of tile. Have now traded it in for a new and better one. It has allowed us to purchase lots of poorly drained land and bring it up to good production. John, you and Aaron may want to consider a tile plow! Lots of Edgar county could use more drainage!

Anonymous said...

-that is true planning at its best when you can be pro active about dealing with a problem in 2070 ,, say John you will only be ahhhh? in the part only part of canada south of the USA we tile on 30' centers ,,fairly shallow with 24"-30" cover and try for 1" of grade per 100' .......... tile has been the biggest yield boosters for our area,,with clay soils and great lakes around us we get about 50" of rain in a normal (we had one once) growing season...our worst nightmare--those 3" thunderstorms in june...john sorry too see you are not coming too Ontario this year... regards - kevin

John Phipps said...


I am coming - 4 meetings all over Ontario for RBC. I'll try to get them posted when they tell me where they are, but the dates are 3/29-4/1.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's great news for me as a wabash flood plain farmer. Personally I think each field should have to contain rainwater so as to not cause flooding downstream. Hey a guy can dream, right?

John Phipps said...


Whoa, this is weird - I was just thinking about that on my home (in the rain) from church. If more guys are thinking like me and dumping the predicted greater precip faster into the Wabash (my watershed), guys downstream are ...well, screwed, it seems.

The article cited has a paragraph that states the mean and peak flows for the Wabash could rise 20%.

No wonder my road commissioner is struggling to bridges and culverts in repair.

Anonymous said...

John,, I am a RBC customer and visiting my account manager on friday and he said that they where bringing in an outstanding speaker too meetings next month and I was thinking Dr. Kohl again ,,well now they have outdone themselves and we look forward too seeing the way new fellows business cards title is no longer "account manager" its ,,don't laugh -- relationship manager--he said he does not set up dates though....FWIW we had same rbc manager for 25 yrs, then 3 yrs. then 1 yr. and now our new fellow...being a cash cropper and pork producer and last 2 having no background in farming it has been a learning experience for all...looking forward too meeting you-regards-kevin

Anonymous said...

I hope you are checking with NRCS first to avoid wetland conversion. And, I would hesitate to use the phrase "reclaimed" when describing an area of savanna that was drained and converted to cropland. Reclaimed might be the proper term if you were converting from ag back to it's previous state.

John Phipps said...


Point taken on the use of "reclaimed", although until about 1880 most of Edgar County was prairie grasses and buffalo traces. German immigrants showed us how to tile it and ta-da - corn country.

The term reclaimed could well depend on perspective, I suppose.

All of my farm has been in production since then.