A project spearheaded by the University of South Dakota took four years to study the effects of how agricultural land tiling affected wetlands in eastern South Dakota.

Biology professor Dr. Jake Kerby says land tiling has been widely utilized to open up more land for production.

“We have good data showing that this is a great technique for farmers. They get better crop yield and if they have areas of wetlands on their property they can drain those ponds that they couldn’t farm before. It’s been pretty popular for that reason.”

Kerby’s team discovered through studying three controlled groupings, the wetlands directly affected by drainage tile saw elevated levels of various elements.

“(We discovered) nitrogen and phosphorus that we use in fertilizer also insecticide and the other interestingly was the heavy metal selenium. There’s some stories back in the day of early explorers bringing their horses out that ate the grass in South Dakota and getting poisoned. It naturally occurs in our soil.”

Consequently, Kerby says the entire food chain could be affected starting with the contaminated insects which are consumed by other animals. Plus the study indicated fewer types of plant and insect species fed by drainage tile.

Eighteen different wetlands were a part of the study conducted in areas from Sioux Falls to near Aberdeen.

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