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Tiling benefits economy

South Dakota was facing a budget shortfall going into 2011. No kidding. Our estimates for 2010 were well over $1 billion lost for residents of South Dakota for one simple reason ... poor drainage!

By: Brian Hefty, Baltic, S.D.

South Dakota was facing a budget shortfall going into 2011. No kidding. Our estimates for 2010 were well over $1 billion lost for residents of South Dakota for one simple reason ... poor drainage!

Not only is it the dramatic yield loss that poor drainage causes, it’s also the damage it does to equipment, roads, utilities, and residential and commercial property. Poor drainage dramatically drives up insurance costs, soil erosion rates, and costs to plant and care for crops on those acres. Poor drainage kills beneficial soil microbes and leads to increased soil compaction, colder spring soils, a shorter growing season for crops due to later planting, more seed and seedling diseases in crops, higher soil pH and salt levels, and lower land values.

There are many myths about tiling, and those misperceptions have hurt our country. For example, some people believe:

  •  Tiling pollutes the water. NOT TRUE when tiling is done without using inlets. Phosphorus, turbidity, and most chemical pollutants in water are dramatically reduced when tile is installed. Nitrate levels could go up slightly, but if farmers use modern practices to reduce nitrogen use and loss, this is rarely an issue.
  •  Tiling increases erosion. NOT TRUE. If ground is untiled and 100 percent saturated, rain water is forced to run off, carrying soil (along with the fertilizer in that soil) with it. Studies show about a 50 percent reduction in erosion on tiled land.
  •  Tiling increases flooding. NOT TRUE. If land is tiled, the water table is commonly lowered to a depth of 3 to 4 feet. This means the soil can now hold a huge amount of water when a rain hits. Studies show a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in peak flows off tiled land.

Additionally, farmers tile to increase yield. Higher-yielding crops USE more water. For example, if you tile 160 acres of corn that then yields 30 bushels per acre more, that’s about 19 million fewer gallons that might leave the field during the year.

Our government has talked a lot about economic development lately. What would be better than having farmers invest their own money to fix the drainage problems we’ve got across the country? Not only do yields immediately and dramatically increase, but flooding is reduced, the water is cleaner in part due to reduced erosion, and our infrastructure is better protected, including roads and utilities.

Also, if you’re concerned about wildlife, let me remind you that about a third of the world’s population is currently malnourished and another third is starving. The world is demanding more food. That’s why commodity prices are as high as they are today. If farmers are allowed to maximize production on the true farmland they’ve got today through methods that include tiling, it allows CRP, wildlife acres, and other hunting areas to remain intact. If we continue to fall short on food production, sadly, non-cropland may get put back into production in our country and others.

I’m writing about this today to at least make you aware of how much money poor drainage is costing farmers AND everyone in rural America. Rather than complaining about our lousy economy, our bad roads, and our struggling crop acres, let’s do something to fix them.

Hefty is a farmer, agronomist and co-host of Ag PhD, the nation’s most-watched agronomy TV show.

He and his family live on their farm near Baltic, S.D. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Reprinted by permission.

Contact Crary

  Crary Agricultural Solutions, LLC.
  P.O. Box 237
  Morgan, MN. 56266
  Phone 507-249-3176
  Fax 507-249-3146