Frank Raasch's farms have various lengths, depths and widths of drainage tile. Actually, his farm is more like a pattern tile test plot for northern Missouri.
"The first field I grid tiled was 47 acres back in 2006," he says. "It is the worst farm I have done so far." As a tiling novice, he installed some lines on 20-foot spacing, some at 50-feet and some at 60-feet. "I was trying to decide which one was the best." But it was too little acreage with too much tile to tell a difference. The only think he did realize was that he placed the tile lines too deep.
Still the results did not deter Raasch. The next year he tackled another 160-acre farm. "That one totally transformed that farm," he says. "It will produce good corn in a wet year."
Today, Raasch has tile lines that drain nearly 2,000 acres in Ray and Carroll Counties in northern Missouri. And each farm has a unique drainage design.
Raasch farms are made up of primarily glacial clay. However, it varies quite a bit from field to field, and even within a field. In Ray County, the soils are an Aholt clay. It is a calcareous soil with some alkaline. In Carroll County, Raasch farms Booker clay, which is more of an acid soil.
With seven years of either installing or assessing tile, Raasch has a good understanding of how to tile in northern Missouri. For super heavy clay, he recommends installing on a pattern, tiling every 20 feet. For clay loams, place tile lines every 30 feet and anything heavier than clay loam just tile the drawls, unless there is a water problem.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
He has seen individuals try to save money by putting in a main and then run tiles lines every 60 feet. "Within two years, they are back splitting them," he says. "The greatest distance should be 30 feet."
Raasch lays the tile just three feet deep. "If we can get the water off those top two feet, we can get the roots to grow deeper," he says. He is convinced this helps even in the drought years. "If the roots grow deeper, earlier, they can withstand a dry summer."
Often the cost of tiling deters farmers from improving drainage on a field. Raasch remembers when he planned to install pattern tile on a 450-acre piece by Carrollton. At that time, he was quoted a price of $700 per acre. "My mouth dropped open," he recalls. "How can I afford to pay that much?"
But that was during a time when land was worth $3,000 to $4,000 per acre. Now that the ground doubled in value, Raasch says, "That price does not look so bad." In addition, he says that by tiling the land it will be only increase in value in the end.
Still funding tiling projects is not simple. Banks are not as willing to fund these projects. Raasch has found more luck in obtaining funds for irrigation systems than tiling systems. So, he must pace his installation. "I try to do a few acres every year, but I have slowed down these last few years. Still there is more ground that needs to be tiled."
For more on Raasch's operation click here.