Give Timewell Tile of Illinois, a major tile contractor, credit for getting the ball rolling toward narrower tile spacing from the conventional 50 to 60 feet. At the 2001 Farm progress Show near Lafayette, the company demonstrated installing tile on 30-foot centers, or even narrower, in black soils that were naturally poorly drained.
The trend has caught on and now many contractors install tile at relatively narrow spacing, depending upon the soil. In soils with high clay content, that may even be 25 feet apart instead of the traditional 50 or 60 feet. Old-timers even talk about 100-foot spacing, but few if any consider that as effective pattern tile drainage today.
One farmer in southwest Indiana says he routinely tiles his land on 25 foot spacing today. He installs pattern tile, even in fields with low areas but fairly steep hills. He goes up and over the hills with the tile. He hopes to catch natural springs that sometimes contribute to wetness in soils with slopes and hills.
This farmer installs his own tile with a tile plow pulled by a large four-wheel drive tractor. Using tile plows to install tile has become more common, industry spokesmen say. It's not hard to find a tile plow sitting in a barn lot today.
One issue that comes up is what diameter of tile to use if you're going with narrower spacing. Timewell Tile suggested three-inch tile when the company began pushing the narrower spacing idea years ago. The theory was that since the spacing was narrower, a smaller diameter tile could handle the flow. Plus, going with three-inch vs. four-inch diameter plastic tile would help offset the cost of placing laterals closer together.
However, Roger Wenning, a farmer and tile contractor in southeast Indiana, prefers staying with four-inch diameter tile, even on narrow spacing.
"It's not that much more expensive than three-inch tile, and it really provides a lot more carrying capacity," he says. "Plus it's harder to plug a four-inch tile if you get soil into the line somewhere."