Classifying Wet Areas & Why it Matters
Classifying Wet Areas & Why it Matters
Written by: Charlee Mitschke
An Introduction to Water Management & SaskFSA
There are many benefits to managing water on agricultural land. Through responsible drainage there is less flooding due to controlled flow and timed release of water. There is also enhanced crop water utilization, healthy and productive soil, efficient nutrient uptake and crop inputs,
reduced nutrient loading downstream, protection of infrastructure and increased extreme weather crop resilience. In addition, through proper water management, farmers can seed their crops sooner. The sooner growers can seed, the longer the growing period. Longer growing periods allow for higher yields and a more abundant harvest. Managing water also includes consolidation. Consolidation is water relocation to an equal or more beneficial habitat ecosystem on the land base.
Managing water with proper drainage does not mean habitat no longer exists on farmed acres. Seasonal weather dictates temporary wetlands. Moreover, not every depression is a part of a drainage network. Areas actively managed through drainage are usually temporary wetlands or “wet land” within the field. These wet lands are depressions within the field that are farmed through 8 out of 10 years as mother nature dictates.
Temporary wet lands have water present from 1-2 days to 1-2 months. They are not consistently present year after year. Mother Nature has the final vito on land conditions. In dry years, temporary wet lands are nonexistent. In wet years, temporary wetlands cause growers to be less efficient and economical. There is also increased water runoff and fill-and-spill from these areas when water is not actively managed.
Semi-permanent and permanent wetlands often remain on the landscape because they are not feasible to drain. These areas provide stable, beneficial ecosystems.
Drainage results in production consistency and reliability year after year which is the goal of SaskFSA and our members. Land is our most
valuable asset. It is important land owners are responsible with their land and can produce the world’s food for generations to come.
Classifying Wet Areas
There are five wetland classes differentiated by their size, stability, developmental characteristics and environment. Growers aim to manage temporary potholes that slow production, increase crop overlap and erosion and waste nutrients while realizing there is a benefit to leaving semi-permanent and permanent wetlands intact.
Class 1 (Temporary 1-2 Days) . Class 1 wetlands are temporary, shallow depression areas holding water for 1-2
days before drying up. A crop can only survive under water for 24 to 48 hours! It is important to manage these areas
within a field to protect plant and soil health. When we surrender our plants to Class 1 wet areas, we drown out our food!
Class 2 (Temporary 1-2 Weeks) . Class 2 wetlands are temporary, shallow depression areas holding water for 1-2 weeks before drying up. When Class 2 wet areas are managed, they efficiently grow crops that utilize applied nutrients, absorb 18 to 20 inches of water in their growing season, reduce soil salinity and improve soil health. When these temporary “wet lands” in crop zones are responsibly managed, there is more carbon capture and water usage through growing a crop vs. a dried up “dead zone”.
Excess water in these areas severely impact seeded quarters. Waterlogged conditions cause nutrient leaching, plant death after 48 hours, diminished plant growth and yield at water margins, increased susceptibility to disease, escalated soil salinity issues and weed problems.
Class 3 (Temporary 1-2 Months) . Class 3 wetlands are seasonal depression areas holding water for 1-2 months before drying up. Depending on the year Mother Nature can easily dry up these areas. Class 3’s are effectively managed through surface and tile drainage within fields (agriculture zones) providing plant, soil, environmental and economic benefits.
Class 4 (Semi-Permanent). Class 4 wetlands are semi-permanent depression areas existing within the agriculture landscape. These wetlands are typically retained throughout the season; under severe dry cycles, they may dry up. Class 4 wetlands are farmed around, used for water consolidation, and managed for storage capacity. Growers can reduce marginal areas around the wetlands by establishing perennial forage. Perennial forage improves soil health and weed control. It is crucial to manage water storage capacity in these wetlands for flood control and prevention of nutrient spillage.
Class 5 (Permanent). Class 5 wetlands are permanent depression areas existing within the agriculture landscape. It is commonly infeasible to drain these wetlands. Similar to Class 4 wetlands,
it is important for growers to actively monitor the wetlands’ storage capacity for flood control and preventing nutrient spillage.
SaskFSA & Classification
SaskFSA works with the government and other regulatory agencies to create easily understood and mutually beneficial policies for farmers and the environment. Managing temporary, semi-permanent and permanent water within agriculture landscapes is our priority.
Trust SaskFSA for advice on water and land policy. We understand water is always best when managed.