Inundation Patterns of Farmed Pothole Depressions with Varying Subsurface Drainage
The prairie pothole region (PPR) ranges from central Iowa to the northwest into Montana and south central Canada, totaling around 700,000 km2. This area contains millions of potholes, or enclosed topographical depressions, which often inundate with rainfall. Many are located in areas that have been converted to arable agricultural land through installation of artificial drainage. However, even with drainage, potholes will pond or have saturated soil conditions during and after significant rain events. The portion of the PPR that extends into Iowa is known as the Des Moines Lobe. In this two-year study, surface water depth data were collected hourly from eight prairie potholes in the Des Moines Lobe in central Iowa to determine the surface water hydrology. These potholes included surface and subsurface drained row crops and undrained retired land, allowing for drainage comparisons. Inundation lasted five or more days at least once at six of the eight potholes, including four potholes with surface inlets and subsurface drainage, which resulted in four of fourteen growing seasons not producing a yield in part of the pothole. Water balances of four different drainage intensities showed increased infiltration due to subsurface drainage and up to 78% of outflow due to surface inlet drainage. Overall, drainage decreased the number of average inundation days, but heavy precipitation events still caused lengthy inundation periods that resulted in crop loss.
This article is published as Martin, Alexander, Amy L. Kaleita, and Michelle L. Soupir. "Inundation patterns of farmed pothole depressions with varying subsurface drainage." Transactions of the ASABE 62, no. 6 (2019): 1579-1590. DOI: 10.13031/trans.13435. Posted with permission.