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Partnership with UMaine advances affordable well research

Ongoing partnership between the University of Maine and the USDA Northeast Climate Hub to establish a test well for wild blueberry research.

New England's droughts in 2016, 2020 and now 2022 offer a preview of farming amid climate change. This has caused farmers who rely on rainfall to seek more reliable water sources.

Dr. Rachel Schattman, assistant professor of sustainable agriculture at the University of Maine, is leading study of a novel shallow well that is 50 to 75 percent cheaper to dig than current designs. Collaborators on the project include Joe Ayotte, who developed the well’s design, and Marcel Beleval, both of the U.S. Geological Survey’s New England Water Science Center, as well as the USDA Northeast Climate Hub. These new wells are dug into glacial till, which is common throughout the Northeast. They offer lower operating costs than current alternatives. The team hopes to dig the wells across the region to test their ability to provide supplemental water to farms.

The latest milestone in Schattman’s ongoing partnership with the Climate Hub will be to test the design at UMaine’s forthcoming  Wyman’s Wild Blueberry Research and Innovation Center. The shallow well at the center will be the second in the study. The first was established in 2021 at Hart Farm, a mixed vegetable and livestock farm in Holden, Maine. The well at the Wyman’s Center will irrigate three acres of wild blueberries. The research plots will offer control of moisture, temperature and genotype of the wild crop. This will help UMaine scientists study crop-environment interactions with precision.

Farmers interested in digging a shallow well and sharing data should contact Dr. Schattman at rachel.schattman@maine.edu

Shallow well in Holden Maine

Haley Jean and Rachel Schattman process soil cores taken from the shallow well at Hart Farm in Holden, Maine. | Photo by Rachel Schattman, used with permission.


This project is supported by the USDA Northeast Climate Hub (20-JV-11242306-087), the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station (MEO 022332) and the USGS New England Water Science Center.