Research project Opportunities for controlled drainage in Flanders

In progress OP-PEIL

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Sarah Garré

Sarah Garré

ILVO researcher and water expert


Main research question

The strategic objective of the VLAIO project OP-PEIL is to force a breakthrough for systems of level-controlled (CD) drainage in Flemish agricultural soils. This form of drainage does not drain water continuously, as is the case with conventional drainage, but allows water to be drained when it is really needed, for example during the sowing period. This form of drainage can be both socially and agriculturally profitable, and effective in the short term.

Research approach

A breakthrough can be achieved by further building on, combining and implementing the knowledge that has been amassed internationally and regionally in recent years around CD, with an emphasis on the added value in the fight against drought and on financial added value for the farmer. Specifically, the necessary expertise is also being built up around 3 knowledge gaps: the potential of sub-irrigation (bringing water underground via the drainage system), the influence of CD on salinization in the polder context, and the possibilities for collective water management on a landscape scale.

OP-PEIL will specifically address:

(i) Providing decision support guidelines and practical recommendations to farms on the plot-specific application of CD.

(ii) Encouraging and guiding target farms in the conversion from conventional drainage to CD, with an emphasis on constructing a feasible and financially viable CD system.

(iii) Maximum dissemination of CD knowledge to farmers and governments, both by the project team and by farmers of the target farms, through demonstration activities and workshops.


The results of OP-PEIL will lead to increased applicability of CD and attention to context-specific needs in Flanders. We will quantify the marginal yield in these contexts and also the impact on drought risk. OP-PEIL will provide concrete figures on the effectiveness and profitability of sub-irrigation and of CD as a technique to control salinization. This project will also provide hard figures on how more water effectively infiltrates to groundwater through CD in the different applications of the project. Further outcomes are an increase in knowledge among farmers and governments and a practical exploration of the potential of collective level management.