GROVE CITY, Pa. — The first-ever Pennsylvania drainage tile field day was hosted June 20 by the Pennsylvania Land Improvement Contractors Association at Spring Meadows Farm in Grove City.
More than 150 people came to see the 4-inch plastic pipe go in the ground. Stuchal Custom Agriculture Service was performing the demonstration on a 50-acre field.
Cory Stuchal farms 2,000 acres in Mercer, Butler and Venango counties, Pennsylvania.
About 14 years ago, he bought his own tiling equipment when several of his own fields need tiling. From there, he started a commercial business.
Nationally, drain tile installations cost anywhere from $800 to $2,500 an acre, said Mike Cook, president of the Land Improvement Contractors of America who came over from Michigan for the day’s event.
By the numbers
Tiling this field cost about $1,000 per acre, Stuchal said. In the estimate for the project with 75,405 feet of drain tile, Stuchal notes the supply cost will be approximately $55,982.68, costing 74 cents per foot in supplies.
During the field day they were laying the tile 3 feet deep and 30 feet apart. Stuchal’s crew managed to complete about half the field, even with a heavy downpour in the middle of the day.
With the tighter agricultural economy, the tiling business has slowed down, Stuchal said, as he watched from the edge of the field.
“At one point, there was a two-year wait; today, there is more like a two-month wait,” Stuchal said. “$3.50 corn just doesn’t pay for tile.”
He’s had several cancellations — for some, tiling won’t fit into the budget this year. But he still has a constant flow of work, with four full-time employees and several part time throughout the year.
Stuchal does land surveying and designs the drainage system with the customer’s input, he said. He also works with NRCS, EPA and SWCDs to determine wetlands and follow regulations.
Stuchal and other members of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Land Improvement Contractors Association work together to understand and follow regulations and keep high standards of workmanship as they manage natural resources.
The national association, with 2,400 members and 28 chapters, focuses on enhancing land conservation and educating drainage contractors.
“It is becoming harder and harder to find ground,” Cook said. “And we all know it — farmers have to improve what they got.”
A tiled field can improve yields by 20-35 percent, he said, and farmers can expect to be paid back within five to seven years.
Stuchal said he expects the field to have a 20 percent yield increase on average, thanks to the new drainage system.
After the tile installation is completed, and the field dries out a bit, he plans to plant a cover crop over the 50 acres.
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