From the desk of Sophie, Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator.

Interest in South Coast NRM’s Subsurface Drainage trial, an investment by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), is spreading across the South Coast, and with good reason.

High rainfall conditions over 2022 left many growers with bogged headers, and failed crops. Waterlogging has long been an issue across the region, but its impacts have never been demonstrated quite so clearly. Our agricultural systems are in need of a practical, and effective, solution to waterlogging. 

Subsurface drainage buries slotted pipe in the subsoil, draining perched water, trapped by an impenetrable clay layer, away from the root zone and preventing crop drowning. We’re trialling this tool in the high rainfall areas of Neridup and Dalyup, across Esperance, with significantly positive results to date. Observations in biomass, weed presence and yield suggest that this drainage system effectively reduces the impacts of waterlogging, can withstand high rainfall periods, and improves crop health and yields, compared to undrained sites. 

Installing subsurface drainage systems requires detailed planning. An understanding of your soil profile, paddock elevation, and drainage exit points is crucial in ensuring you design an effective drainage system, that positively benefits your crop, soil health, and surrounding environment. It’s best to reach out to experts to ensure this process is done correctly, which may include speaking with your agronomist, local grower groups, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, or your local Natural Resource Management bodies (that’s us!). 

To highlight the process of installing subsurface drainage, South Coast NRM hosted a demo day in March 2023, in partnership with Californian subsurface drainage experts, Farm-Xport and SoilMax. The demo day gave growers a firsthand look at the process involved in installing subsurface drainage, showing that with proper planning, installation day comes quick and easy. We’ve explored this process in depth with a short film produced by Anvil Media (see above).

For any questions relating to designing and installing subsurface drainage, contact the trial’s project officer, Sophie on (p) 9076 2200 Ext. 201 or (e) For details on the trial, its aims and progress, visit the Southern Soils website.

South Coast NRM is proud to be partnering with local growers and GRDC to deliver local innovative trials.