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More time for tiling

05/05/2011 @ 9:01am

Typically, the spring tiling season ends when the last fields are planted. But that's not the case around Algona, Iowa, where veteran tiler Dick Manske and his son, Scott, routinely install tile in fields where corn and soybeans are already up and growing.

“We tile in crops into the first week of June almost every year,” says Dick Manske. He says most of the corn in the tracks and trenches will survive. “If you had taken another picture of this field later in the summer, you'd have hardly seen the tile ditches. As long as the corn doesn't get much over knee-high, we don't do a lot of damage. The damage occurs when the corn gets over knee-high. Then we break it off, and it has no chance of coming back.”

Matt Erpelding of Algona rents the farm where this picture was taken. He admits that before the tiling was done he was concerned about how much crop damage there would be and how rough it would be to farm over the trenches the rest of the year. Those concerns faded away as the season progressed.

“I was happy with it as far as the amount of crop it took out,” he says. “Most of what was run down came back. Once the crop got up, you could hardly tell anything had been done.”

Tiling continued

Erpelding hired a dealer to spray with a Hagie sprayer equipped with a 120-foot boom because it wouldn't have to cross the trenches as often as he would. “Harvesting wasn't an issue,” he says.

Would he do it again? “If that was the option – get it done rather than wait a couple of years – I wouldn't hesitate to do it again,” he says. “It was worthwhile to get it tiled. That outweighed the crop loss.”

Lloyd Thilges, who farms near West Bend, Iowa, also had Manske Drainage install tile in growing crops last year, although he was hesitant at first. “But then I figured, if they have the time to do it, let's get it done,” he says.

After the tile was installed in early June, Thilges smoothed the trenches out with a 10-foot-wide field cultivator. Then he tied up the two outer rows on his six-row planter and planted four rows of an 89-day hybrid over the tile lines. He harvested those rows separately. “The last thing you want to do is drop a snout down into the dirt,” he says.

What Thilges had tiled last June was the bottom half of an 80-acre field. The top half had been tiled several years ago.

“I'm looking forward to this spring,” he says. “Before, the top half where we had tile was dry, but I still had to wait for the bottom half to be ready. Hopefully, it will all be the same.”

Ron Frideres of Algona has had the Manskes install tile in growing crops for several years, and he no longer has any concerns about the practice.

“When I let them do it the first time, I thought there would be all kinds of traps out there,” says Frideres. “But after a while, I couldn't see anything except exactly where the tile lines went. Now I have come to expect that it is not going to be a big deal.

“I let him do it where we have beans planted,” he adds. “It takes out about four rows. I figure it's wet there, so the next year is going to make up for it anyway.”

He uses Roundup on the beans late to control weeds where the tile runs. “I've had many farmers tell me that, under normal growing conditions, they'll gain what they lose,” says Manske. “You will gain (from drainage) what I ruin.” Nevertheless, he does give farmers a small discount for in-season tiling.

Family business

Dick Manske's father, Bill Sr., started Manske Drainage (515/295-4262) in 1969. Dick was 14 years old then, and he's been tiling ever since. For several years, they installed clay and cement tile, then they switched to plastic during the 1970s. “Dad's goal was to lay 3,000 feet per day,” says Dick. “Our goal is 10,000 to 12,000 feet per day.” Dick's son, Scott, joined the business in 2000. They have used laser guidance for years. Two years ago they started using GPS to hold grade with the tile plow.