Drying the soil: Manufacturer keeps farm crops from flooding
Published 3:04 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013
—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.
Weather conditions can prove fickle for growing crops, but Century Plastics in Hayfield gives farmers a measure of control.
The farming business produces agricultural drainage tile, which increases yields and reduces compaction, says Century Plastics plant manager Alan Dahlen.
Too much water below the surface of the soil can harm crops by preventing root development and inhibiting growth, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Soil with too much moisture will also suffer from compaction when heavy farm machinery rolls over it, and can cause a tractor to get stuck. Many soils in the Upper Midwest have poor natural drainage and would stay waterlogged for days after rainfall without maintenance.
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Drainage tiling, which comes in the form of corrugated tubing buried in the ground, is a way of removing standing or excess water from the soil, the opposite of using irrigation to add water to soil that’s too dry. Certain crops depend on specific conditions to grow well, and drainage can help optimize the soil for that growth.
How effective drainage tiling is depends on how deep it’s laid, how far apart it’s put in the ground and how much is used, Dahlen said. Drainage contractors as far out as St. Cloud or central Iowa are Century Plastic’s main customers.
“It’s all based on footage,” he said.
The company ships out supplies by the truckload, then contractors use it to install drainage systems. The plant runs 24-hours a day, three shifts a day, five days a week.
“We run around the clock,” Dahlen said.
By the numbers
36: U.S. manufacturing facilities owned by Century Plastic’s owner, Advance Drainage Systems.
35: Years the company has been in business.
45: Minutes it takes to manufacture one maxi of tiling.
3,200: Feet in length of one maxi of tiling
8-12: Truckloads shipped out per day
32: Employees working at the Hayfield plant
19,200: Feet in length of tiling in each truckload
10: Acres on campus
4: Buildings on Century Plastic’s campus