Farmers focus on tire pressure-compaction link

Tires will start to lose sidewall deflection and bite characteristics if pressure drops much from the current recommendations

Agriculture tire technology advances slowly but surely. With those advances, farmers become more of aware of what they have to gain through better tire management.

Scott Sloan, agricultural product manager for Titan/Goodyear Farm Tires, says the relationship between tire pressure and compaction is now in the forefront of most farmers’ minds. He says tire pressure has joined the long list of complex agronomic factors that producers must juggle.

“Farmers realize that the lower they run their tire pressures, the less soil compaction they get and that means higher yields,” says Sloan, adding that it’s a major issue he hears farmers talk about at farm shows.

“We’ve had IF and VF technology for about 17 years. People finally understand the advantage of these technologies. There’s an obvious benefit to your soil if you can run the same load, but with 20 percent less air pressure or 40 percent less pressure.”

Farmers ask if tire manufacturers have plateaued in their endeavors to create the ultimate low pressure tire. Can they expect lower recommendations? How about the kind of airless tire technology now available for skid-steer loaders?

Sloan says if pressures drop much from the current recommendations, the tires will start to lose their sidewall deflection and their bite characteristics. He says that’s the advantage of the Goodyear’s LSW (low side wall) technology. They’re actually VF technology tires, but the lower sidewall helps their stability so they can run lower pressures.

Super singles vs duals — “We sell both, so we see the advantages and disadvantages of both systems. There’s more tires to maintain with duals, and especially with triples. Overall width can be a concern with duals.

“With super-singles you can actually gain ground contact compared to duals. Just by bolting the super singles on, you gain 20 percent flotation and you narrow up the tractor by four inches. If you’re running duals a lot in wet conditions, they tend to rust.

“With four-wheel drive, a switch that’s become very popular is to remove the duals, the 710 or 800 duals, and replace them with super singles. We’ve got a 1250 LSWor 1400 LSW, which is the largest ag tire in the world.”

NTS Tire Supply in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, converts a lot of tractors and combines over to Titan LSW tires. Customers report more flotation, shallower ruts, no cracked rims and more wet ground harvested.

NTS ran some numbers. A standard 650/85R38 dual setup has approximately 1,960 sq. inches of total tire contact with the ground with four tires. Compare that to a LSW1250/35R46 single setup, which has 2,242 sq. inches of tire contact with two tires. The larger option are the LSW1400/30R46 tires, with a pair offering about 2,454 sq. inch ground contact. By choosing LSW singles, NTS customers improved their combines’ footprint size by 300 sq. inches to 500 sq. inches.

Super singles vs tracks — Assuming that the prairie wet spell is finally behind us, some producers are trading in their rubber track tractors in favour of round rubber tires. Sloan says there was a lot of conversions to Titan tires back from tracks in 2019.

“That’s where we make our hay, is with super singles,” says Sloan. “For 20 grand you can put a set of 1250 or 1400s on your combine and go 98 percent of the places you’d go with a track machine. With tracks, you’ve got to clean the mud out every night, even if it’s the middle of the night, otherwise it freezes up solid on you. Plus the Titans give you a better road speed.

“So you’re looking at 20 grand for tires or 80 grand for tracks. We hear horror stories about guys buying a used tractor with tracks, then finding out they have to put another $30,000 into overhauling the tracks. A lot of track machines get traded because it’s track overhaul time.”

Utility tractors — Sloan says Titan-Goodyear has been working on transferring the new technology they’ve developed for big tractors over into the line of chore tractors from 120 horsepower and less.

“These are the utility compact and subcompact tractors. It’s called an R14. Essentially what we did was take the attributes of an R1 ag tire and combined it with an R4 industrial tire. When guys go to buy these tractors they have their choice between an ag tread, an industrial tread or a turf tread.”

Airless tires? These are predicated on a relatively constant load. But in tractors you can go from a light load on your axles to an extremely high load. With pneumatic tires, you can adjust the inflation pressure to match your load and the work you’re doing. Plus, with central inflation, you can make those adjustments almost instantly.

“With airless tires, you’re stuck with whatever footprint or soil compaction factor you’re given. Skid-steer loaders work with a relatively stable load, and usually on a stable surface. Nothing like field conditions.”

Triples — “As I travel around, I see pockets of triples here and there, but I think that’s mainly farmers using up what they bought years ago. These are guys who’ve had the same tractor for numerous years, and they haven’t updated their equipment.

“They are high maintenance. There’s a lot of hardware to look after, and it is a hassle accessing those inner tires. All that is obvious when you look at a set of triples.”

Sloan says two Titans cost about the same as four tires you need to make up a set of duals.

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