15’ & 30’ Drainage Tile - Water Management Study

Key Points

  • Objective: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the performance of using drainage tile as a form of drainage and irrigation at the PTI Farm.
  • Top-10 Study: Our tile drainage studies came in #4 on our 2021 Top-10 ROI list at the PTI Farm.
  • Key Results: In 2022, the 15’ pattern tile offered the greatest yield advantage of 18.9 Bu/A, which equates to additional gross farm revenue of $113.40/A.
  • Irrigation: In this study, we installed 15’ and 30’ 3” plastic field tiles to compare their ability to not only drain water from our fields, but to also back-feed irrigation through the field tile to support crops during dry seasons.

Managing & Recycling Water on a Wet Farm

When the PTI Farm was acquired in 2017, we quickly learned that our new research site was a “wet farm.” There was very little field tile to drain our soils to prevent yield losses, so our focus turned to adding and installing field tiles to drain the excess water from our fields. In the process, we created our own water reservoir and began to dream of other ways we could utilize the costly drainage tile.

Due to this reservoir, we had millions of gallons of water we could use as irrigation from field drainage and rain collection. We put it to the test to see if drainage tile could be used for more than just drainage, and have an added benefit on potential yield during dry and drought months.

PTI Farm / Reservoir Aerial View

If you have a wet farm, drainage tile can improve your field and give you ideal conditions to help increase yield. Drying out your soil not only allows you to plant sooner, but also improves harvesting conditions, increases land value, and produces more consistent yields. However, the price tag on field tiles can often cause growers to hesitate on installation.

By being able to utilize drainage tile for both drainage and irrigation, we estimate both the 15’ and 30’ tile systems would pay for themselves after ten crop seasons. In 2022, the 15’ pattern tile offered the greatest yield advantage of 18.9 Bu/A, which equates to additional gross farm revenue of $113.40/A.

When we started testing irrigation, we found that we could gain an additional 6.8 Bu/A in 15’ tile pattern tile and 3.5 Bu/A in 30’ tile patterns. Although these are fairly small yield gains, when you consider the impact on what was a 10-year payback period, they look promising! When we look at the backfeeding gains with the 2022 corn prices, it could lower payback to 7.5 years in 15’ tile and 8 years in 30’ tile patterns.

We still have a lot of testing to do and we look forward to continuing this water management study in the years to come.

Drainage Tile & Water Management Study Results

In-Depth Study Videos

InsidePTI S4•E15

Subsurface Irrigation & Drainage Tile ‣ Corn

InsidePTI S3•E16

Drainage Tile ‣ Corn + Soybean

InsidePTI S2•E30

Tile & Farm Drainage

Study Details 

Study data collected 2019-2022 at the PTI Farm in Pontiac, IL.

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