EFS - Effective Farming Solutions

A revolution in the farm drainage industry: The 2 inch Tile

For many years the farm drainage industry has been evolving. The concept has remained the same….remove excess moisture from the soil and that land produces more. In the beginning drainage was achieved by hand digging ditches and canals so surface moisture could escape. This brought many idle acres into production that were too wet to produce in the past. Then someone figured out that if the subsoil could be drained, those acres were even more productive. At first land was drained using hollowed out logs and planks set on an angle at the bottom of a hand dug trench, then clay and cement tiles were installed with steam and gas wheel trenchers. This was a very labor intensive operation, and also involved a lot of skill because the tile had to be installed at the proper grade for it to work. Because of that field drainage was utilized only in the areas where it was needed the most. In the 1970’s and 1980’s 3 things happened that changed the drainage industry forever. The first was the advent of plastic corrugated tile making tile more cost effective and easer to transport and handle. The second was the advent of using lasers and automatic controls on the ditching machines to maintain the proper grade making drainage much easier to install. The last big change was the development of the Tile Plow. Instead of removing all the soil out of a trench with a large wheel trencher, then laying the tile in that trench and then putting the soil back in a Tile Plow could simply be pulled into the ground and at the correct grade, the poly tile would be strung in through a boot to the bottom of that trench and the tile would be installed.

Because of the expense of producing and installing tile in the past it was installed where it was needed the most. Much in the lowest parts of the fields and then later in parallel lines graded to the lower main lines. Typically those lines called Laterals were run between 40’ to 100’ apart using 4” diameter tile. As tile technology and equipment became more affordable and available more drainage was installed. It was still a sizable investment but the return on that investment became better every year.

Mark Martin, a farmer in North Central Ohio had utilized subsurface drainage for many years on his farm. He understood the benefits but the investment was high to install the tile. The technologies had progressed to where many farmers could install their own drainage by investing in a tile plow to pull behind their own tractors. The problem was it was still a sizable investment for the tile plow and the size of tractor needed was more than Mark owned at the time. Through research Mark found information that in Europe most of the tile installed was 2” in diameter rather the 4” norm here in the US. He then found a study that was done at the The University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada evaluating 2” vs. 4” tile. The concept made since to Mark. The basic concept is to run 2” tile on closer laterals typically 20’ vs. 40’. The result was more responsive drainage at a more economical price because of the price difference and being easier to install.

He looked for more information and source for 2” poly tile and equipment to install it. The tile was produced in Canada and in the United States by several companies and used primarily in the turf and landscape industries. But no one made a tile plow specifically for 2” tile. Mark contacted his nephew and welder fabricator Elton Zimmerman and in no time at all Elton had a working unit put together and ready to go. A relationship was formed with Intellislope for the controls for the plow which works directly from GPS to keep grade. Initial test were very promising and Mark and Elton installed their first tile with the unit. Then they started installing tile for their neighbors.

After the success of the unit and seeing the benefit of 2” tile the two decide to offer a tile plow to the public and Richland Micro Drainage was born. The main benefits of the Richland Micro plow and 2” tile are:

  • Lower cost on equipment. The Richland Micro Plow cost as low as $7000, and a much smaller tractor can be used to pull it, 17,000 lb. or larger.
  • Lower cost on tile. 2” tile runs approx. …. per foot vs. ….per foot for 4”
  • More feet of tile can be installed in a day because typically you don’t run as deep (on average 24”) and 2” tile is much easier to handle.
  • 2” tile on closer laterals (20’) and shallower (24”) works very well on tighter clay soils.
  • Works better in contour situations.
  • Much quicker drainage with 2” on 20’ laterals vs. 4” on 40’ laterals.
  • Less evasive. Much less mounding of tile lines means easier to get fields back into production.
  • Ease of operation, 3 point vs. pull type plows.
  • 2” poly tile is now available in maxi rolls holding 5000 to 7000 feet.