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This guy really loves waterways

No matter what time of year you drive by Norman Schue’s farm, you’re going to see grass. It will either be on the hillsides as hay and grazing land, or else in waterways that carry water down through the farm where gullies would otherwise run. And you’ll also find grass in filter strips along ditches and creeks that cross his property.

Schue, Ferdinand, likes green grass —he’s not fond of brown mud. “When we moved here, we had a gully so long and deep that there was an acre or so of cropland we had to cross over to get on the other side,” he recalls. “We installed grass waterways to take care of those kinds of situations.”

Key Points

Grass waterways replaced gullies on Norman Schue’s farm.

Water and sediment control basins, or wascobs, channel the water underground.

Water from tile lines from basins empties into a ditch or creek.

If they’re seeded properly, mostly fescue in his case, and if they’re mowed when appropriate, he believes grass waterways are relatively easy to maintain. And without them, even though his tenant no-tills, there would be gullies where water concentrates.

Fits needs

Most of Schue’s grass waterways are relatively narrow compared to some in other places. They’re sized to handle the water that’s flowing into them. With the rolling ground in Dubois County, there’s plenty of need for waterways that channel water instead of letting it run free.

In addition to grassed waterways, he uses water and sediment control basins. Typically, there’s a riser pipe in the basin that lets water flow underground.

“We put tile lines under the waterways so that water that enters the riser will drain to the ditch or creek,” he notes.

Not all of Schue’s wascobs are the same. One doesn’t even have a riser because it’s not needed. Water simply drains into a catch basin and into a tile. Some of them his tenant can drive over — others he can’t.

The idea is twofold. First, keep the surface covered in grass so water that runs into the waterway will slow down and won’t carve away at the soil. Second, channel as much water underground as possible through tile lines to a suitable outlet. That way the soil stays in the field, and so do the nutrients. That’s what Schue likes to see.

Rock chute used to stabilize flow in key farm area

Sometimes no-till alone isn’t enough. Sometimes even adding grass waterways with no-till won’t solve every problem. Once in a while you may need a special conservation practice to get the job done.

A rock chute on Norman Schue’s farm where his ditch crosses his driveway and intersects with other watercourses lets water drop to a lower elevation without cutting gullies. It’s made of large rip-rap stones.

Soil conservation technicians from the local soil and water conservation district and Natural Resources Conservation Service office helped determine what size Schue’s rock chute should be. It does its job, keeping water under control.


Loves green: Norman Schue was green before “green” was cool. Only to him, green means green grass. Where there’s green, there’s no brown mud.

This article published in the June, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.