If you can't afford new drains, ensure old ones work

Mary Kinston

If there are limited funds available for drainage works, the next question to ask is whether there has been adequate maintenance of the drains that were previously installed on the farm.

Silt and other debris builds up in open ditches over time and, if not maintained regularly, this will block culvert pipes and the field outlets.

An adequate outlet is an essential part of any drainage system and may require co-operation with the neighbour.

Occasionally you will see where the spoil from open ditches has been left alongside the ditch for a prolonged period, which impedes the flow of surface water off the field. When maintaining an open ditch it's important to move this material away.

If there is a suitable outlet and outfall, deepening these open ditches may aid the future implementation of a new drainage system, as in many circumstances old drainage systems have broken down because they were too shallow.

If pipe drains can be identified at the open ditch, cleaning these out by power jetting with drain washes can be a cost-effective way of reinstating a drain that has broken down in recent years.

Other farmers would talk of rodding these drains, though this may be a harder process. However, it's important to realise that, when installing a drainage system, there is a large amount of soil disturbance.

As the ground settles, these can potentially block or be compromised in effectiveness, so maintaining a piped drainage system one year after installation can aid its effectiveness.

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Iron in ground water can also be a problem as the residues tend to form a jelly-like iron ochre which can clog up the system.

Again maintenance of piped drains every three to five years will improve the effectiveness of a drainage system.

Irish Independent

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