Busting Drainage Tile Myths
Welcome and first off we apologize for part of the audio quality. A corrupt file led us to using reserve audio, but the message is still great. Tune in to catch us busting all the myths around drainage tile from installation to longevity. Smart Agri Labs is a privately-owned agtech company based in Des Moines, USA with a mission to increase row crop farm profitability by leveraging underutilized farm data. Their first offering, Smart Seed Selector, is an AI-powered platform that helps US corn/soybean growers and ag advisors choose seed products that reduce weather risk and increase yields by 6-8 bu/acre over traditional approaches.
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Smart Agri Labs is a privately-owned agtech company based in Des Moines, USA with a mission to increase row crop farm profitability by leveraging underutilized farm data. Their first offering, Smart Seed Selector, is an AI-powered platform that helps US corn/soybean growers and ag advisors choose seed products that reduce weather risk and increase yields by 6-8 bu/acre over traditional approaches.
Smart Corn Hybrids Selector (smartagrilabs.com)
Tony Reed sent us a list of things that he has heard and believes to be true, but we are going to bust them all today
Myths to Bust:
- Tiling leads to more soil erosion – Compared to surface runoff, tiling moves water quite slowly. The maximum capacity of tile systems is in the range of a half-inch of drainage per day. Concerns about swollen ditches and streams are legitimate, but as I look at data collected over the last century, the underground tile portion of drainage systems is a very small contributor during high flow periods. Keep in mind that streams and ditches carry both tile water and surface runoff, and that high flows generally occur over relatively short periods of time — right after larger rains that cause significant overland surface runoff. Many older tile systems also convey surface runoff that gathers in low spots with open inlets. Modern tiling practices usually result in systems with fewer open inlets.
- Tile contributes to a higher rate of flooding or more often flooding
- Tiling contributes to water quality problems.This is an issue of trade-offs. Tile water does contain nutrients and sediment. There is a large body of research showing that tile drainage reduces surface runoff, resulting in less sediment transport. There is a corresponding reduction in phosphorus losses, though not quite as large due to the presence of a very small amount of dissolved phosphorus contained in tile water. Tile drainage also contains nitrates. The key to determining the net effect of tiling lies in understanding how much sediment and phosphorus are reduced relative to the increase in nitrates. In my experience, in most situations the tradeoff is positive, especially considering that people need to eat, and farmers are becoming increasingly aware of this concern and are working ever harder at improving their nitrogen application practices. Solutions beyond the field are also happening, such as denitrification in wetlands and drainage ditches.
- Tiling is unregulated – Tiling is one of the most highly regulated activities affecting farmers. Several federal, state and local agencies have regulatory authority under various federal, state and local laws, rules and ordinances allowing review of drainage projects. Some drainage activities require permits, while others are simply reviewed and either approved or denied. It is common for as many as seven regulators to review a proposed drainage project to insure compliance with all rules.
- Tiling is bad for soil health. Healthy soils contain both water and oxygen. Many of the most productive soils in the Midwest are not able to drain naturally, starving the microorganisms in the soil of oxygen. This, in turn, affects nutrient cycling in the soil and can reduce crop productivity, which is important in returning organic matter to the soil to continue the cycle. Improved drainage contributes to improved soil health.
- Once tile is in it can’t be removed or cleaned out
- I don’t have an outlet so I can’t install tile– What options are available if no clear outlet?
- The tile/pipe designed and sold today is only meant to last 10 years
- I have sandy soils so there is no benefit to tile
- There are no conferences or educational opportunities to learn about conservation and drainage
- Highlight all the educational opportunities
- Anything else you’d like to add?
- What’s the best advice you have ever been given?