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Tile Plow FAQ

Soil-Max Gold Digger Stealth ZD


How many horsepower does it take to pull the tile plow?
​In our experience, most western Canadian buyers are looking for either pattern tile installation in fairly heavy soils, or looking to drain depressions through ridges and therefore need to be deep in some places. Therefore, a 400+hp, 40,000lb+ 4WD or tracked machine will be required to pull the tile plow in most cases. At some point you will most likely need to hook on  a second tractor too, for example if you are installing 8″ or 10″ pipe at or near maximum depth, or where traction is an issue.​ Traction tends to be more of an issue than horsepower in many cases.

How deep can I go with it and what size pipe can I install?
​​The pull-type tile plow has a working depth of 6.5′. The 3-point version has a working depth of 5.5′
​Changeable tile boots are available in 4″, 6″, 8″ and 10″ sizes, giving you the ability to install 3″, 4″, 5″, 6″, 8″, and 10″ pipe.

Can’t I just tile by eye without using Intellislope and RTK?
No, not unless you have superhuman powers, or your fields have so much natural slope that you can’t possibly come off-grade!

I’m confused about the difference between Intellislope and RTK – do I need both?
​​This is a common question and point of misunderstanding. Intellislope is a grade control system that requires an input from a RTK GPS receiver. Intellislope is built into the Ag Leader Integra Display (when you purchase Intellislope from us you receive an Integra Display with Intellislope unlocked in the display). Whether you run Intellislope or any other method of grade control you still need to have GPS receivers that are unlocked to RTK and transmitting RTK signals.

My equipment dealer says I can only use WM-Drain for grade control because I have Trimble GPS?
​​This is not true, you can use Trimble GPS receivers that are unlocked to RTK to send the required messages to Intellislope. Please contact us for exact details based on your GPS model.

I have lots of rocks in my fields
Rocks are an issue for tile installation no matter what equipment you use. Until you try tiling in rocky ground its difficult to say how badly they will hinder tile installation. Large rocks above tile installation depth are generally not an issue (unless they are so big they stop you dead) because the tile plow will heave them out. The biggest issue is rocks at install depth because the plow will not be able to get under them to heave them upwards, but rather the plow is lifted and the installed pipe is therefore above the intended grade. In these situations, the operator either stops on top of the rock and restarts the install from this point (thus not going off-grade), or the location will need to be flagged for excavation later.

How many feet or pipe (or acres) can I install in a day?
Many factors affect how many feet you can lay in a day. As a guide, our experience has been that about 25,000 to 35,000 feet (or 25 to 35 acres) in a day is realistic for pattern tile projects, and about 5,000 to 10,000 feet per day if we are installing 6 or 8 inch pipe to drain potholes.

I see contractors installing in both directions. Can I and should I do this too?
We have spoken to lots of people about this, from very experienced contractors in the U.S. to university professors. The resounding answer we hear is that it’s not good practice, and the only reason to do this is to install more feet in a day (and make more money). Self-propelled plows are slow, so driving back after each run equals significantly less feet in the ground – hence the desire to install in both directions. Because we are using a tractor our return run is much faster, and we can run our survey on this return run so we have a totally accurate topography reference to design the install from (if you install both ways you’ll likely be installing based on the original field survey which may not have actually driven over the exact run you’ll be placing the tile and could lead to you being too deep or shallow in places). Installing downhill means you have no chance to recover if you hit a rock, so you must stop, cut the pipe, pull out the plow, dig out the rock, dig a new start hole, and begin installing again – installing uphill gives you a good chance you can perform a rock recovery without any of this. Installing downhill in wet conditions means you’ll have water chasing you to the outlet, and it’s not fun to connect a pipe that’s already flowing full! The other risk is that you mis-calculate your depths and come in below the main or deeper than your outlet ditch etc, which would make your install useless. So, the answer to the question is yes, it is possible to install in both directions with the plow and the Intellislope system. Do we recommend installing downhill? Absolutely not.

Do I need RTK or can I tile with WAAS, Omnistar, laser etc?
​Tiling with GPS is so much more efficient than using a laser system that you really shouldn’t consider a laser unless your fields have completely uniform slope. Using RTK GPS is an absolute must as less accurate systems will result in installations that don’t work at all, or don’t work very well. Using automated grade control like Intellislope combined with RTK is the only way to achieve the kind of accuracy needed. Intellislope will not allow you to tile unless you have RTK!

My equipment dealer is suggesting I go with their radio or cell based RTK for tiling For tiling it is always recommended to use a mobile base station that you set up on the field you are tiling. The only time we’d endorse running on a network is if all your land is within a couple of miles of the dealer’s base station. A cellular system will mean you are likely tens of miles from the actual base station (even if you are close to a cell tower this doesn’t mean you are close to the base). We have yet to find anyone that will stand behind these systems when we ask them to guarantee they are accurate enough for tiling, however we do have several plow owners running on these systems without reported issues – but again, we do NOT endorse this practice.

Should I upgrade my existing GPS or buy a separate RTK for tiling?This really depends on what you have now and your need for RTK for other operations. If you feel the benefit of RTK for seeding, spraying, and harvest is worth the cost of upgrading then that is the way to go. On the other hand, many of our clients are very happy with the accuracy they get with Omnistar etc and it actually works out considerably cheaper for them to purchase a system like the Hemisphere A320/321 kit that we offer that they can use for tiling. The other benefit here is that you don’t have to take the GPS from the tractor or other equipment to use on the tile plow, and you can still use your Omnistar for steering while tiling. (If you do upgrade your existing equipment remember you’ll need a GPS receiver on the plow plus one for on the tractor if you want to be able to steer while tiling).

What do you recommend for grade control?
Some of our existing clients have tried to use grade control systems offered by the well-known equipment and GPS manufacturers. All have ended up coming back to us to buy Intellislope. The two main issues with other systems were lack of support (nobody in the dealership understands anything about tiling), and difficulty getting the systems to work correctly. Intellislope was designed primarily for use with Gold Digger tile plows. We only sell Intellislope, and cannot offer support for other systems.

I heard someone say that tractor-drawn plows aren’t as good as self-propelled units
The most common causes of tile failure or poor performance are incorrect system design, incorrect choice of pipe specification (e.g. filtered/non-filtered), and operator error, not plow-related causes. Most full-time contractors are not farmers, so for them it makes sense to buy a self-propelled unit if they don’t already have a 4WD tractor or two. There are also situations where a self-propelled unit will work better, such as in very wet ground where they get better traction and floatation, and sometimes in very rocky ground where the extra weight can be an asset. As far as staying on-grade, tractor drawn/mounted plows use plow pitch to maintain grade while self-propelled units can directly control depth to maintain grade. Both methods are proven effective provided the operator is careful to keep to a speed the hydraulics can match, and provided the RTK system and attached slope sensors are calibrated and accurate – all of these are more likely causes of tiles being installed off-grade.

Will you teach me how to use it?
​Yes! Every plow we sell comes with a setup and training in plow operation from one of our experienced operators or Local Experts. Provided the conditions allow, we’ll also spend some time with you actually getting the plow in the ground and going through the steps and procedures required to operate the plow.

We also run introductory tile drainage workshops from time to time, click here for more info.