Now is the Time to Inspect Your Tile Drains

Subsurface drainage is used to remove excess water from poorly drained land in agricultural settings. Tile drainage plays an important role in Michigan’s agricultural industry. Michigan State University Extension recognizes that tile drainage improves infiltration and reduces runoff, increases water storage and creates a suitable environment for plant growth by removing excess water. Proper installation is extremely important but even proper installation can fail if tile lines are not maintained. Inspection and continual maintenance should be done to ensure that the tile lines are functioning properly. Regular maintenance of tile lines is an important management practice to ensure agricultural productivity on tile-drained land in Michigan. While farmers are working the fields and planting this spring, this provides an excellent time to inspect field tile lines and outlets.

Effective tile lines are very important to crop productivity and water quality in some areas of Michigan. Below are examples of simple maintenance steps to make sure that tiled fields are working efficiently:

  • Monitor tile lines at times of peak flow (usually seen during April, May and June in Michigan)
  • Conduct regular field inspections looking for unexpected wet spots and evidence of soil erosion
  • Monitor tile inlets and outlets prior to, during and after application of manure (Refer to MSU Extension Bulletin WO-1037: Tile-Drained Land)
  • Remove any debris around the tile inlet and clear obstructions from tile drain outlets
  • Install rodent guards
  • Repair animal burrows, blowouts and sink holes immediately
  • Properly install tile outlets above drainage ditches
  • Properly maintain drainage ditches
  • Test the quality of water leaving the outlets by analyzing it for sediment, nutrients, bacteria, pesticides and metals

Cleaning tile lines is one of the simplest ways to maintain the health and effectiveness of tile. A tile-cleaning contractor can determine if the tile is damaged or not working properly. Plant roots can clog the end of tile lines or, in some cases it can break through the lines and damage the tile. This is an exception to the rule. Properly engineered tile lines should withstand plant roots no matter what crop is planted. Tile-cleaning contractors may be found by contacting the Michigan Chapter of Land Improvement Contractors of America.

Inspect tile lines for the presence of iron ochre. Iron ochre is a red, yellow or tan gelatinous material that adheres to tile wall openings or forms around the outside of the buried portion of the drain tile and obstructs flow. It is commonly found in sandy and organic muck soils. Wet and dry soils (fields under irrigation) are also susceptible to ochre formation. Ongoing maintenance is the only option for controlling iron ochre formation.

Field drain tiles do not last forever. Keep them clean and well maintained and they should last for many seasons. For more information and resources on tile drainage maintenance and more visit University of Wisconsin Extension Discovery Farms Program. And for information on possible United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and eligibility for tile construction or management consult your Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Source: Michigan State University 

Recent News

The 2020 Outlook for U.S. Agriculture From USDA’s Chief Economist

Speaking on Thursday at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, USDA Chief Economist Robert C. Johansson provided a broad outlook for U.S. agriculture.  Today’s update provides an overview of key aspects of Dr. Johansson’s presentation. In his speech Thursday (transcript / slides), Dr. Johansson noted that, “Despite mixed signals heading into 2020, there has been important progress on the trade policy […]

Corn Prices-Farmer Holding and the Coronavirus

Old crop corn basis and futures spreads continue to signal a smaller crop scenario than the price levels in the futures market suggest.  Futures price levels reflect the uncertainty associated with the coronavirus and the potential weaker growth its continuation promises.  Producer grain holding remains the popular explanation for a strong basis and small futures […]

Highlights from USDA Trade and Commodity Outlook Reports

Following this month’s release of the USDA’s Long-Term Projections, on Thursday, the Department released its quarterly Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade.  This update provided an overview of agricultural trade based on the 2020 fiscal year, which began in October, months before the U.S. and China signed the Phase-One trade agreement.  Recall that Phase One farm purchase commitments are based […]

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now