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Tiling offers help in wet years and dry, NDSU agronomist says

Drain tile can help farmers get into fields sooner in a wet year but also helps manage water and nutrients in a dry year, NDSU agronomist Hans Kandel says.

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FARGO, N.D. — The late, wet spring much of the northern Plains went through was an excellent testimonial to the advantages of drain tile, a North Dakota State University Extension agronomist says.

While tiling can be a large initial investment for farmers and landowners, Hans Kandel, NDSU Extension agronomist, says the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, especially in years like this.

"Of course, higher yield. And we can document that yields are higher when you have tile drainage. It will depend on the rainfall of course and the conditions during the season, how much that difference is," Kandel said. "We typically can get into the field earlier and because you can get into the tiled field earlier, you also can then plant the whole farm early."

Kandel has been doing tiling research on test plots since 2008, but he says his findings during last year's drought took him by surprise.

"The most surprising thing is that during some of the drier years, you would expect that there would be a negative effect of tile, but that is not always the case," he said. "In this particular soil, we typically have some ( iron deficiency chlorosis ) issues. But because of the tile, some of the salts leaked through the tile system and are at a lower level. Because the salts are lower, the crop did better. So during the dry years, last year during the drought, I had a few bushel more yield on the water managed side compared to the non tile drained side."

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Kandel advises landowners to come up with a tiling plan for their acres and see which fields need tiling the most.

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