District fields getting more tile drainage

Nicholas Donaldson

More area fields will be getting tile drainage this summer as one more company has travelled to Rainy River District to do some work improving land for farmers looking to grow cash crops.
Martin Drainage, based out of Arthur, Ont., was working on a field in Sleeman on Monday afternoon.
“We are taking marginal farmland and putting sub-surface drainage systems in here to increase production,” explained Delton Frey, who is leading the crew.
The system uses corrugated plastic tubing placed a few feet below the surface of the field to drain excess water and control crop conditions, improving yields and allowing for a wider variety of plants to be grown.
“Typically we run a four-man crew,” said Frey, noting one person works an excavator, digging the starter holes for the plow and moving earth as needed.
Frey runs the self-propelled drainage plow himself, which cuts trenches and places the tile simultaneously as it passes over the field.
“It’s got a shank on here that fabricates a trench bottom, which is designed for the tile to lay in,” he remarked.
As the shank plows through the field, it also fractures the soil–creating channels for the water to get through to the newly-placed tile.
Still, Frey said it can take some time for the water to work its way into the new system.
The roll of plastic tile sits on a large spindle on the side of the machine, which is fed into the ground as the trench is made.
After it passes through the ground, the earth falls back onto itself, although it still leaves noticeable bumps across the field.
The third crew member helps fix this with a front-mounted disc on a tractor as they drive back and forth hauling new rolls of tile to the drainage plow.
“We disc the drains down level for the farmer so he doesn’t have the hassle of bumping over the drains for a while,” said Frey.
The final crew member moves around, helping to start each new line and making the connections to the main drainage line with ‘T’-shaped pieces of plastic tubing, allowing the water to flow through the system and off the field.
The depth of the tile can vary, but it usually sits about three-four feet below the surface, with the main line at about six feet deep.
The distance between the lines also varies depending on the amount of water expected in different areas, as well as what the farmer has noticed while working the field.
“We get out and talk with the farmer to see what they want,” noted Frey, adding they will do a complete pre-survey of the field and map it out before starting.
“Obviously in the lower areas, you want a closer spacing because when you get heavy rains, that’s where your water is going to go,” he said.
“You’ll want them closer together to get more water out of there.”
Frey estimated they can tile 100 acres in about four or five days, depending on the drainage design and the lay of the land.
“We came up June 19 and we’ll be up here until the end of July,” he noted.
“We have maybe half-a-dozen jobs and there are a few that are quite large here.”
Frey added this is their first venture outside of southern Ontario doing drainage work, but he has some friends in the area and made some contacts here.
“We were looking to get some more work done and there seemed to be a demand in the area,” he reasoned.
The drainage system removes excess water faster for better control of field conditions.
This allows farmers to achieve better yields and grow a wider variety of crops that otherwise would get drowned out in the district.
This, in turn, is contributing to the ongoing improvement and growth of agriculture in the area.