crop roots and tile lines

If you see excess water pooling in a field where it shouldn’t be, a tile may not be draining to its full capacity. It doesn’t happen often, but the roots of cover crops, corn, and even trees along a fence line can get inside the tiles and clog them up.

Eileen Kladivko is an agronomy professor at Purdue University. She says they’ve had more reports of the problem lately, and the most common “tiles” these days are plastic perforated drain tubes.

"Within the plastic tile, there are different kinds of openings. I mean, some of them are holes, some of them are slits, some of them are very tiny, narrow slits," says Kladivko. "And those are usually designed for different types of soils so that you don’t get soil particles in there. But, we are just kind of wondering whether there might be some of those that would be more prone for roots to enter than others."

Kladivko says another cause could be dead roots washing down the pipe and accumulating in lateral junctions that fit inside the main drain with internal quick couplers. Over time, you’ve got a log-jam-style clog.

"One possible solution is to not use those quick couplers, but to use the external couplers, so you don’t have anything in there that would tend to catch roots or anything else," she says.

Kladivko says they need more reports from farmers to help researchers determine why plant roots are getting into tile lines, and specifically how to prevent it. If yours have been clogged by roots, she’d like to hear from you.