Standing alongside a field in southeastern Decatur County, it was impressive to see how good the corn looked. It was even more impressive to see the yields on the combine yield monitor later, climbing up near 270 bushels per acre for some hybrids in the plot. If you know even a little about soils, it went from impressive to almost unbelievable. Look up Avonburg soil, the dominant soil in that field, and compare it to Brookston or Westland for yield potential. It won't come anywhere close.
"The secret is these guys installed an effective pattern tile drainage system in this field several years ago," says Steve Gauck, Decatur County, an agronomist with Beck's Hybrids.
Indeed, Roger and nick Wenning operate a tile installation business besides farming, but they make sure they take care of their land, too. That includes installing tile, not just to drain wet spots, but to drain the entire field.
At one time people didn't think you could drain these tight soils in southeast Indiana. Eileen Kladivko, armed with results of a tile drainage experiment at the Southeast Purdue University Ag Center near Butlerville, demonstrated that you can. Those soils are actually Clermont or Cobb's Fork soils, more poorly drained and tighter yet with more clay, often referred to as "slash" ground. They've even shown at SEPAC that you can reduce tillage on those soils and still produce profitable crops.
"Drainage is where it all starts on these types of soils," Gauck adds. "It was especially evident this spring when most of the area received more rain than we needed."
In the past these types of soil were extremely slow to dry out. Having tile installed on a pattern so that it impacts the entire field makes a big difference in how quickly the field can be planted in the spring.