Projected climate change effects on subsurface drainage and the performance of controlled drainage in the Western Lake Erie Basin

L. A. Pease, N. R. Fausey, J. F. Martin, L. C. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The US Midwest is expected to experience higher intensity rainfall events along with an increased chance of drought during the mid- and late 21st century under projected future climate scenarios. Development of strategies to mitigate the impact of these projected changes on agricultural production and environmental quality is important for ensuring agricultural resiliency to future climate. This study used the DRAINMOD hydrologic model to simulate subsurface drainage discharge at a field site in the headwaters of the Western Lake Erie Basin using future climate patterns projected by 20 general circulation models. Despite projected increases in rainfall, by the late twenty-first century, subsurface discharge was projected to decrease 7% and 11% under representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and RCP 8.5, respectively. Reductions in subsurface discharge were attributed to increased temperature and evapotranspiration. The performance of controlled drainage was not projected to change on an annual basis throughout the next century. The benefits of controlled drainage systems as an agricultural best management practice were still evident under the projected climate change of the next century. The role of controlled drainage as a means to potentially retain more crop available water in the soil profile could become critically important under future climate conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-250
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Soil and Water Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is part of a regional collaborative project supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Award No. 2011-68002-30190, Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project: Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-based Cropping Systems. The 11 institutions comprising the project team include the following Land Grant Universities and USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS): Iowa State University, Lincoln University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Wisconsin, and USDA ARS Columbus, Ohio. This project was funded, in part, by a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant through the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (, an Ohio USDA NRCS State Conservation Innovation Grant through the Maumee Valley RC&D, an NSF Coupled Human and Natural Systems grant (GRT00022685), Ohio Sea Grant, the Overholt Drainage Education and Research Program, the Department of Food, Agricultural & Biological Engineering, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio State University Extension, the Ohio State University, and collaboration with the USDA ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit. We also thank the cooperating farmers for providing their farm as a research and demonstration site and sharing their farm management information. We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme's Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), and we thank the climate modeling groups (table 4) for producing and making available their model output. The US Department of Energy's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provided coordinating support for CMIP and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals.


  • Climate modeling
  • Drainage water management
  • Ohio


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