If you've ever visited southeast Indiana at any time other than last August, you probably know that when it rains there, soils tend to stay went for a while. That's because the primary soil type, Clermont, is very tight, gray, with lots of clay and a reduced ability to allow water to move down through the soil.
The question farmers there ask is can they drain these wet soils? Or can you drain wet soils in other parts of the state, such as eastern Allen County not far from Van Wert, Ohio, where there are thousands of acres of very tight, high clay subsoils.
The answer so far seems to be: 'yes, no, maybe.' Farmers have different opinions on this subject, notes Mark Back, a farmer on this type of soil. He lives in Ripley County near Cross Plains.
Back is in a wait and see mode. He has tile 200 acres of Clermont soil with his own tile plow, but has yet to see the type of results from tiling 200 acres that would entice him to tile more fields at this time. His tile has been in about three years, and he's not convinced how much help he's receiving from it. What he hope sis that it will help move out water in the spring for planting, and in the fall for harvest more effectively over time.
One question this farmer has is whether he installed the tile on close enough centers. His lines were laid in by his plow at 45 feet distances. He's wondering if he should have gone 30 feet on centers.
What some tile companies are doing in other parts of the Corn Belt where soils are heavy, although perhaps higher in organic matter, is laying tile at 30 feet. The catch is they're holding costs in line by using 3-inch tile vs. using 4-inch tile to carry more water on 45 foot or wider centers. There is a large price increase for 4 inch tiles vs. 3 inch tiles.
Some farmers who have put in tile over the last decade in these tight soils, often with their own tile plow, say it works great. Others say they haven't seen much improvement. A tile study at the Southeast Purdue Ag Center near Butlerville has shown improvements, but those fields have been tiled now for more than two decades. What Back is waiting to see is if he can see improvements from through the next few years before he makes further investment on the farm.