Flood Waters and Fields

Posted: October 24, 2011

Many areas of Pennsylvania farmland have been affected by the recent flooding. Since the epic rain events much of the flood waters have receded and revealed a real headache for growers. This article summarizes information from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Texas A & M University, and Cornell University to assist in repairing fields to their original productive state.
Andy Beck, Penn State Extension,

Many fields have experienced significant erosion from nearby water sources. Before starting any excavation projects, be sure to have underground utilities such as gas, electric and communication lines located by Pennsylvania One Call System. This is a free service for landowners and is required if digging on your own property with power equipment. They can be reached by calling 811 or Do not assume that if you are in a rural area, underground utilities do not exist. 


Flood waters can deposit a wide variety of debris including building materials, furniture and potentially hazardous materials such as fuel tanks. If you suspect any debris to be of hazardous nature contact your local municipal authority as they may have collections sites. 


Flood waters that deposit large amounts of plant debris in farm fields can be incorporated in the soil. If plant debris does not contain trash and is less than 4 inches deep, it can likely be incorporated into the soil with normal tillage practices. If debris is more than 4 inches thick, it may be necessary to spread it to a thinner layer before incorporation.


Soil compaction will most likely be an issue for growers to contend with after the record breaking rainfall received in the area.  Installing a cover crop that reduces compaction can help prepare the soil for spring planting. Check out the Cornell Cover Crop Management Tool for Vegetable growers at


Saturated soils from flooding can lose nitrogen through denitrofication or leaching. Soil testing is always a good idea to manage post flooded soils. Testing for normal agronomic management is suggested. Documenting the flooded areas on a map may help in the sampling process.


For more information on managing flooded soils from Cornell University visit, University of Nebraska Lincoln and Texas A & M University or request a printed copy from your local extension office.