Like many no-tillers, Ben Fehl has seen the value of tiling both rented and owned ground. Major benefits from tiling include increased yield, less soil compaction, improved soil and water quality, reduced soil erosion and greater economic return.

As a result, Fehl purchased a tile plow several years ago and has used it mainly for improving drainage on rented land.

“Our landlords have been very accommodating in regard to the importance and value of tile,” says Fehl, who no-tills and strip-tills with his father, Dean, and brother, Brandt, near La Porte City, Iowa.

As was the case with the Fehl family, more no-tillers are having discussions with landowners about the many benefits of tiling. As more farmland is owned by non-farmers who are two or three generations away from farming, landlords need more education on the value of effective drainage.

In a 25-year drainage study conducted by Ohio State University researchers, adding tile to a Hoytville silty clay soil boosted corn yields by 30%. This equates to taking a 135-bushel per acre farm to 175 bushels. With $4 per bushel for corn, that amounts to a $160 gain in gross revenue per year from investing in tiling.

Drainage Vs. Land Rents

Almost 2 years ago, Ohio State University ag economist Brian Roe surveyed 161 farmers in the northwestern part of the state as to the impact of drainage and soil types on rental rates. Farmers were asked to provide data on problem fields where runoff was a likely concern.

Only 9% of these fields did not have workable tile, resulting in land rental charges that were $12 to $28 per acre below the average for all corn fields in the study. Roe determined that each additional bushel of potential corn yield was associated with an extra 37 to 52 cents per acre in expected rent.

In corn fields with slopes over 2%, expected rents were $5 to $15 lower than for flatter fields. Where clay soils were dominant, rents were $10 to $15 per acre less than fields containing other soil types.

Higher Returns With Soybeans

Some 158 growers provided data on problem soybean fields. Roe found each additional bushel of soybeans was associated with an additional $2 to $4 per acre in anticipated rent. In the 18% of problem fields that did not have operating tile, rental rates dropped by $18 to $32 per acre.

Unlike with corn, Roe found no difference in soybean rental rates due to slope. Rental rates for clay soils were lower by $12 to $25 per acre.

Roe says this is one of the few studies that have looked at how tile impacts land rental rates in fields where soil runoff is likely. Compared to untiled fields, investing in tile was worth an expected $18 to $32 bump in land rental rates for soybeans and a $12 to $28 bump for corn.