Why is tiling necessary, and what are the benefits of tile drainage?
All plants require appropriate amounts of water and air in the soil to be able to grow. When excess water fills up the air spaces, we call a soil waterlogged. Tile drainage allows this excess water to drain away, resulting in oxygen for proper root growth. The water a plant uses is the water that remains in the soil, clinging to the soil particle.
See our tile drainage page for information on how tile drainage can increase your yields.
What is tile drainage?
Tile drainage is the practice of placing underground pipe to provide a means for water to be removed from a soil. We use corrugated polyethylene (PE) pipe for all of our installations.
Years ago, concrete or clay “tiles” were used, and hence the name “tile drainage” was born. The pipe is perforated to allow water to seep in, and buried throughout the field at a precise grade to allow the water to drain out, typically into a ditch or creek. The result is that the water table is lowered to a point where roots are no longer drowning, but capillary action can still bring usable water into the root zone.
Will tiling dry out my soil?
Tile drainage can only remove excess water, that is, water that takes up airspace in a soil. After this water drains away, there is still water left clinging to the soil particle. This water, called “hygroscopic” water, is the only water a plant root can use. Anything more than this causes the root to drown for lack of oxygen.
How is tile installed?
We use commercially built tile plows that are controlled by a laser or GPS. The entire system is built around the accuracy of installation, which is critical for the tile to work effectively. But as with all technologies, it’s the operator that makes things work. Our company is committed to using only highly qualified operators in all of our equipment. Quality and accuracy are our #1 concern with any drainage project.
What are the environmental impacts of tile drainage?
Installing tile drains artificially lowers the water table, and there are some distinct environmental benefits associated with this practice.
Under excess rainfall conditions, a field that is not tiled will “fill up” with water as the water table rises and comes closer to the surface. The result is that excess water ponds on top and is forced to run off. The runoff carries soil particles, nutrients, and pesticides with it. On the other hand, a field that is tiled has more room for water to infiltrate, and the soil particles filter out the nutrients or pesticides. Since the soil particles cannot enter the tile, the soil, nutrients, and pesticides stay on the field where they can be used by crops.
One risk associated with tile, however, is the loss of nitrates. Since nitrates are soluble and will leach out through the tile with the water, we need to recognize this danger and manage it accordingly. Nitrate leaching is always a concern, even without tile, and so BMP’s such as split rate applications are encouraged to reduce this risk.