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The Cost of Bad Drainage Due to Broken Drain Tile on Farms

Farmers have many reasons to be wary when planners announce a pipeline project will be heading through agricultural land. The obvious question is how it will impact growth on that segment of land, and how farmers will be compensated for it. Fewer think wider, and further into the future. Questions such as how it will impact the entirety of a farmer’s land, and not just the one stretch where construction takes place. 

What if we told you the difference between good and bad drainage was tens of thousands of bushels of corn, or soybeans?

It’s easy to forget about drain tile, until your fields undergo a heavy rain and there’s no system in place to move the excess liquid. That’s why it pays to make sure that a pipeline project doesn’t disrupt your drain tile too much.

Any pipeline project heading across agricultural regions, such as the Central and Midwestern United States, is bound to run into some drain tile. And there’s no way for a pipeline crew to accomplish its goal without cutting through that tile. Don’t worry: They fix the tile as soon as the pipeline is laid, so you shouldn’t fear the initial broken tile.

Your concerns should be whether that repair is done correctly.

The repair itself—fixing the tile so that water can flow smoothly without leakage—is the simple part. If something goes wrong, it tends to happen during the “bridging” of the tile. This is the process of creating a “bridge” to firmly brace the new drain tile across the pipeline before it gets buried. If the tile is not held up firmly, it can collapse and break.


A broken drain tile is just as bad as no drain tile, because leakage and pooling drowns crops or makes moving farming equipment near impossible.

This becomes a serious problem when tile repair relies on unreliable bridges. Unfortunately, this happens too often, when using conventional sandbags to form bridges. Workers pile hundreds of heavy sandbags to form a makeshift bridge across the pipeline for the drain tile to rest upon. The problem is that these bridges have 150 or more separate “pieces,” and the individual bags tend to move apart or settle when workers pile heavy backfill back on top of it. This collapse disrupts the tile, forcing crews to return and fix the error. That’s more time they spend on the project, and on your land.

Mad Dog Foam Bridges provide a solution. Rather than relying on many bags of shifting sand, our one-piece bridges are designed to fit firmly around a pipeline, and are weighed down to by placing 15 sandbags inside. These bags won’t slide around like the ones in the previous paragraph because they’re held firmly by the walls of the foam bridge.

Most importantly, of course, is what it all means to farmers. What does bad drain tile cost you?

According to reports from Iowa State University, the difference between poorly drained soil and properly drained soil is 54 bushels of corn per acre. The average size of a corn farm in Iowa is 333 acres, so good drainage means nearly 18,000 additional bushels of production.

The difference between good drainage and poor drainage is huge. Make sure the pipeline project on your property takes the proper steps to repair your drain tile properly.

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