How does drainage tile work and will it improve your farmland?

Would your farmland benefit from drainage tile?Drainage Tile

It seems like the spring and summer of 2017 will be remembered as one of the wettest in history. In much of the corn belt evidence of drown out spots and waterlogged soils blanket the countryside.

Managing the air and water in the soil is a major economic factor year in and year out. It is estimated that between 1980 and 2004, $180 billion was lost due to heat and drought stress and waterlogged soils (1). Excess rainfall causes significant crop loss and a long-term impact on future crop yields because valuable topsoil is lost. Improving the drainage of your field will increase the field’s productivity and promote environmental stewardship.

How does tiling work?

Drainage tile is a way of managing water by removing it from the soil below the surface. Excess water can cause many problems including soil erosion, compaction, and crop growth issues as well as root grDrainage Tileowth limitation. Waterlogged soil causes soil biology to slow and oxygen in the soil to be depleted.

Wet soils are controlled by a series of drainage pipes that are connected to a multiple or single outlets. These drainage tiles are placed just below the root zone. This help to maintain the ideal soil water level. In the Midwest, drainage tile is 3-4 feet below the soil surface. The outlet is run to a nearby ditch or stream.


farmlandHow do you plan your field tile install?

Every field is unique from its soil types to the topography or the rise and fall of the landscape. And the type of crops being grown are  different too. This makes each field’s design and instillation different than the next.

Many years ago clay and even wooden tile was common. But today most use corrugated plastic that is made with small holes to let water in. When the soil water level becomes higher than the tile, these holes let the water in and gravity due to the slope of the tile carry it to the outlet. This movement lowers the water table, creating an environment that is more suitable for plant growth.

It’s all about Oxygen!

The number one benefit of removing water is to increase oxygen in the root zone. Plant roots and the soil microbes need oxygen in order to grow and flourish. When it becomes a limiting factor, what suffers? The plant and the biology in the soil suffers. This lack of oxygen leads to poor crop yields, limited income and higher risk to manage the land.

You can use the Soil Max ROI calculator to determine if drainage tile will pay for you. I would go out on a limb and say that it will help every time. If you are 39 or 89 years of age, it will pay. If you are looking to keep your farmland in the family or sell it, it will pay. Profitability of the farmer influences the value of every acre.

If you are looking for someone who can add value to you and your farmland, Bird Dog can help. Contact me today.

(1) Mittler, 2004

Photos courtesy of H&F Drainage Seymour, IN

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