Monday, March 12, 2012

Tile Plow

This winter we embarked on a new adventure on our farm, we bought a tile plow. Now for those of you in the "I" states or Minnesota or Ohio, this would not be that unusual. But here in the middle of Nebraska, it was instant coffee shop talk. There has been little or no tiling done in this area for many years. The tiling that was done was to correct an issue with leaking irrigation canals.

But recently our ground water table has been raising, so much that some of our fields are now water-logged. The water table is only about 6" to 12" down in a couple of fields. After much research I purchased a Gold Digger plow. It is a 3-point model that can install tile about 6' deep. We are using our RTK GPS system on it to regulate the depth.

Of course we also had to purchase a tile stringing cart, since we had no way to lay out the tile. Here it is with a roll of 4" tile on it. There is about 3,200' of tile in a maxi-roll like this.

The company rep. came down from Sioux Falls, SD to train us on the plow and the Intellislope monitor. There are no dealers in Nebraska yet.

He put the plow in the ground to start the calibration. I couldn't believe he left the tractor at an idle. At 5' depth it was still OK, but at 6' he killed the tractor and had to give it a little fuel.

Here I am tiling. We are about 3' deep at this point. My drainage ditch is only 3' deep so I can go no deeper than that. I am also running as flat as I can at 0.1% slope, that is 1 foot in a thousand feet. I have set the limits at 2.5' to 3.5' of depth. That is much shallower than many do back east, but it's all I can get. Another reason for the shallow depth is that these fields are gravity irrigated and we don't want to dry the fields out too much. At this depth the corn can still get to water.

You can see how much the ground is heaved by the plow. It certainly is breaking through any hard pan we might have! I am spacing the tile lines at 30', nothing magic about that number, it just fits our row spacing well. I have no idea what the ideal spacing should be. We will do some experimenting this spring and will know more later.

This tile line was installed only an hour or so before the picture was taken. Later we installed a 6" steel culvert over the end to protect the tile line from damage or burning.

Time will tell how much tiling will help, but I am very hopeful that this will pay for itself in only a couple of years. In 2011 we only got half a crop of this field. In 2010 half the field was not even planted, and the half that was yielded very poorly.