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Installing drainage systems yourself with Soil-Max

As agricultural technology continues to advance, we also continue to be reminded of the importance of well-drained soils.

Technologies, like our yield monitoring, farm management software, satellite images, and other tools, all show us grower the poorly producing areas that were also saturated with water for the majority of the year. Some of our existing drainage systems might need to be repaired or even replaced with a modern plastic pipe.

Clay or ceramic pieces of pipe

Field drainage systems, installed in the past, were using clay or ceramic pieces of pipes that were installed by digging a trench need to be repaired or even replaced with a modern plastic pipe, which lasts longer before being clogged with dirt.

Historically, farmers all relied on professionals to operate those complex laser systems and develop drainage plans for our fields. The advancement of technology over the last decade has provided farmers with many powerful tools to advance and improve their operations. The advancements in technology include drainage tools as well.

Start drainage system installation yourself

Current precision ag technologies and use of GPS made planning and drainage system installation easy so any farmer can do it by himself, which cut the costs significantly and make them not dependent on contractors. Instead of costly, heavy, tracked drainage machines, the farmer can purchase a drainage plow, hook it to his tractor and start drainage system installation by himself.

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A farmer can purchase a drainage plow, hook it to his tractor and start drainage system installation by himself. - Photos: Soil-Max
A farmer can purchase a drainage plow, hook it to his tractor and start drainage system installation by himself. - Photos: Soil-Max

Soil-Max a pioneer in in drainage plow technology

Soil-Max, the US-based company from the state of Indiana, is a pioneer in drainage plow technology with 25 years history. Ever since the company started to expand internationally and succeed at the 2017 Agritechnica show, Soil-Max has continued to innovate it’s product line to fit the needs of the European farmer. Over the last three years, the US-based tile plow company has developed a new plow (in addition to 2 existing models) and three new options to fulfill the requests by farmers throughout Europe.

New drainage plows

Three point ZD1200 & ZD1600 models are designed for the Western European tractor. The narrow shank and patented Zero Deflection design enable the plows to be pulled with ease. The ZD1200 can install up to 100 mm diameter pipe and at a depth of up to 1.2m. The ZD1600 is a bigger plow capable of installing drainage pipe up to 150 mm and at a depth of up to 1.6m. North American pulled model, Stealth ZD, can install up to 250 mm diameter pipe at a depth of up to 2.1m. The combination of all models offers farmers the flexibility to own a plow that fits their farming operations.

All plow models use the same leading AgLeader Technology’s precision ag displays, modules, RTK receivers, and base stations.

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Field drainage systems, installed in the past, need to be repaired or even replaced with a modern plastic pipe.
Field drainage systems, installed in the past, need to be repaired or even replaced with a modern plastic pipe.

Aggbox

Aggbox is another new product also from Soil-Max. The Aggbox option enables the farmer to also install gravel stones or other aggregates around the pipe in the bed of the trench while they fix the tile pipe. A This installation method that is popular across some parts of Europe, this and the new Aggbox provides the farmer with another tool to install pipe properly on their farm, though it is not common in the US market.

Soil-Max also developed the onboard tile reel to eliminate the need for an additional pipe coil trailer.

Soil-Max Distributors

At the moment, Soil-Max has trained dealers in some European markets but is looking to add new to have full dealer coverage and support here.

What do you need for do it yourself drainage?

To use all the benefits of “do it yourself” drainage, a farmer needs a 200+ horsepower tractor for ZD1200 plow, and a 300+ hp tractor for ZD1600 and Stealth ZD plows. Also needed are AgLeader’s In command 1200 display, water management module, which will control the plow, an RTK receiver, RTK base station, and pipe to install.

There are a big variety of pipes offered on the market. Typically, PE or PVC pipes are used for this operation with SN4 or SN8 stiffness class; everyone decides what fits better for him. All soil types, except sandy soil, don’t require fabric cover around the pipe, for sand, it is recommended to use a pipe with protection, so small particles won’t get in through the pipe perforation.

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Over the last three years, Soil-Max has developed a new plow (in addition to 2 existing models) and three new options to fulfill the requests by farmers throughout Europe.
Over the last three years, Soil-Max has developed a new plow (in addition to 2 existing models) and three new options to fulfill the requests by farmers throughout Europe.

One day of training

Typically, after delivery and one day of training, the plow operator can install without help from the dealer. Before installation, the tractor is driven along the installation line in order to collect elevation data. Then install parameters are entered (min/max and target depths), systems calculate if it is possible to install with these parameters, the plow is lowered into the ditch, and installation starts, very easy. During installation, depth is controlled by RTK GPS and angle by gyro-accelerometer in order to keep the correct and sloped pipe run.

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All plow models use the same leading AgLeader Technology's precision ag displays, modules, RTK receivers, and base stations.
All plow models use the same leading AgLeader Technology's precision ag displays, modules, RTK receivers, and base stations.

Reasons to Install Tile

  • Better Root Systems – Lowering the water table with sub-surface drainage systems promotes better root systems that grow deeper. These larger, healthier roots allow plants to extract more nutrients and moisture for more of the growing season.
  • Reduced compaction – Fields utilizing proper water management have less saturated soils which reduce the likelihood of compaction caused by trying to work ground that is too wet.
  • Improved crop quality & yields – A properly drained field will have increased crop quality and quantity. Results from over 125 drainage experiments in the US show increases in yields of corn by 34%, soybeans by 29%, wheat by 76%, and alfalfa by 42%.
  • Better dry year yield – Tile drainage only removes excess water that is damaging to the plant from the soil. Plant roots will typically grow downward until they reach a saturated area in the soil. Even in a dry growing season, the soil is typically wet in the spring planting season. In these years, deeper and healthier root systems developed due to proper drainage are able to obtain more nutrients for a longer time than shallow roots from inadequate spring drainage.
  • Better Soil Structure – Basic agronomy suggests the ideal soil structure for most soils is 50% parent material, 25% air, and 25% water. Proper drainage allows excess water to leave the soil profile in order to maintain the ideal ratio for optimal crop development.
  • Drainage helps not only farms with excessive moisture in the ground but even those who have irrigation systems. Due to irrigation, the soil will increase in salinity due to the irrigation water. Proper drainage in even irrigated soils will help filter the salt solubles out of the soil quickly, providing your crop with a healthier balance.

Learn more at soilmax.com. E-mail us at info@soilmax.com.