Tile irrigation is a network of belowground pipes, an agricultural plumbing system that moves subsurface water out of the soil and into lines that empty into drainage canals, or directly into creeks, rivers, and other waterways. Some common styles of the belowground network of pipes are the Gridiron, Herring bone, Double Main, and the Natural.

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Tile Irrigation

Tile Irrigation

Photo by Maxwell and Alyssa

Tile Irrigation

Location: Gilbert Family Farms
Featuring: Farmer John

“Tiles are the same thing as that little hole in the bottom of your flowerpot.”

In order to continue to be able to use his fields John has to use tiling. John is working with the South Fork Watershed Alliance to develop new ways to prevent nutrients from entering the water.

John doesn’t till his fields. No till practices increase the microbial life in his soil, which increases the soil’s capacity to hold water. If the soil holds more water, less nitrate goes into his tiles. He also makes sure to not over apply nitrate fertilizer so that less nitrate goes to our water and more goes to the production of food. John wants to keep nitrate on the land and out of the water.

Nitrate is water soluble, so when water falls onto a field with nitrate on it, the nitrate will go where the water goes. Water goes into the tiling, taking nitrate with it. Tiling is widely used in agriculture in Iowa.

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