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Why laying your own tile is so much easier today

Why laying your own tile is so much easier today
RTK and updated tile plow technology lets you lay tile easily and accurately. Here's how to put it to work.

Greg Lundquist says one of the hottest products going at Agro-Chem for the second year in a row is a tile plow. Lundquist, long-term specialist with the Wabash-based business that sells sprayers and all kinds of controller technology, says tractor-pulled tile plows are in demand.

Especially after last year people realize investing in tile needs to be high on their list, he says. One question before was whether you could install tile accurately yourself with a tile plow so the system would work properly.

TILE BY COMPUTER: Tyler Peas demonstrated how to program computer systems to install tile with a tractor-pulled plow.

Lundquist let me decide for myself. He introduced me to Tyler Peas, who provided a virtual demonstration, sitting indoors, with an Ag Leader Soil-Max tile plow equipped with Intellislope setting just a few feet away. We were at the controls in the mock ‘tractor cab.’

Super-accurate RTK GPS

The first key is locating an RTK base station in the field, Peas says. The Ag Leader SPS 6500 RTK base station works with Ag leader’s GPS 6500 smart antennae. It can receive multiple differential correction signals, including GLONASS, giving access to multiple satellites at any one time.

“The important thing with laying tile is vertical accuracy,” Peas emphasizes. “It’s harder to get correct than normal horizontal accuracy.”

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For example, if your system delivers accuracy so you are plus or minus 2 inches, vertical accuracy of that system would be plus or minus 4 inches. Vertical accuracy is critical to laying tile so tile continues in the proper direction and allows water to drain properly.

While 2-inch accuracy may be good enough for planting, 4-inch vertical accuracy isn’t good enough for laying tile lines. The equipment Peas demonstrated was capable of sub-inch accuracy.

He also noted that the tiling machine should be located within two miles of the RTK base station. While the RTK signal might go out 20 miles, he likes to stay within two miles to increase accuracy. Since you can normally set up the station once and complete tiling the field, it’s not an inconvenience as it might be if you’re tilling or planting and moving from field to field during the same day.

Automatic system

The first step is to survey the field and collect soil profile information, Peas says. One option is to take the tile plow to the field and use GPS to collect the information.

The second step is to enter parameters into the program that will determine where the tile is placed, and how it will drain. You can either do this in the field, or you can do it in your office before going to the field. To do it in the office, you can utilize Ag Leader’s SMS Advanced Water Management Module.

Now you’re ready to lay tile, Peas says. He created a mock scenario and showed me how the controller would send signals to the plow, and begin laying laterals in the field.

“It uses a program called AutoTile to adjust plow depth automatically according to your plan,” Peas explains.

OK, so by the end of the virtual demonstration, I wasn’t ready to crawl into a real cab with a real tile plow hooked behind. But with a few more lessons, I think I might be. And if I can do it, you could do it!

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