There's Still Time To Install Tile Drainage This Fall

Practice is expected to pay again in 2013 and beyond.

Published on: Nov 14, 2012

Jim Douglas, Shelbyville, believes in tiling. He says it didn't really make a difference in the drought and heat extremes of 2012, but he doesn't expect every year to be like 2012. He has seen it pay big dividends in the past, and he still believes heavily in the practice.

Roger Wenning believes in it also, even in very tight gray soils in southeast Indiana. The only problem there is getting lines close enough, he says. At one time lines were put in 100 feet apart, obviously too wide. He's split the middles in some of the fields. He suspects he might have fared better by putting two lines in between the original lines. Cost for tile installation becomes a factor.

Install Tile: Nick Wenning custom installs a pattern drainage system on a farm in Rush County.
Install Tile: Nick Wenning custom installs a pattern drainage system on a farm in Rush County.

Installing tile is one of the basics you can have done this fall on fields that still need it, even if it didn't pay in 2012, notes Dave Nanda, an independent crops consultant based in Indianapolis, and also director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.

Nanda believes farmers should return to the basics in 2013, and not make changes based on what they observed in one year. The basics include practices such as pattern tiling fields that need drainage.

Fields which were drained by clay tile installed by hand or with a trenching machine up to five decades or more ago may no longer have adequate drainage. Tim Dougherty, a landowner who dug holes for soils team practice this fall, found two tile lines as he dug. Both were clay tiles, installed well before he bought the farm. Both were relatively shallow, and neither was working. One was almost entirely plugged with dirt.

In years when saturated soils become an issue, yield monitors normally show that tiling pays. Nanda says to rely on that information, not 2012 results, in making decisions such as whether to tile or not.