By Larry Stalcup
If you changed implements on your tractor today or recently, did you check the tire pressure? If not, you should have.
With the cost of tires in the thousands, buying the right tires for the right tractor, combine, sprayer or implement plays a big part in maintaining production efficiency. “You need the right tire balance per horsepower to get efficient operation,” says Brent
Sampson, test engineer for the University of Nebraska Tractor Testing lab in Lincoln.
“Tractors are bigger and tires are bigger,” adds Scott Sloan, product manager, Titan Tire, the largest manufacturer of agricultural tires, Des Moines, Iowa and Freeport, Illinois. “They cost more. So tire inflation is essential. Tire pressure should be managed to make sure they have the right amount of air to handle the loads you need.
“You ask a lot of guys when was the last time they checked tire pressure and they say, ‘when they were put on.’ But different implements, the planter, tillage equipment or sprayer, require a different tire pressure.”
Sloan suggests that growers can stay on top of tire inflation needs by checking with their local tire or equipment dealer. “Stop by a local retailer that has a scale for weighing the tractor and implement,” he says. “Proper inflation is a function of tractor weight, load and travel speed. Consult your dealer to determine the best inflation for your application.”
New tire technology is providing growers with more efficiency. Increased flexion (IF) tires, increased flexion tires are built to provide more flex in the sidewalls. “We’re seeing a lot more increased flexion, or IF technology,” Sloan says. “For combines, this may enable the machine to carry the same load at 20% less tire pressure, which can reduce compaction.”
Sloan says IF refers to tire technology that provides 40% lower inflation pressures than in conventional tires. “There are a lot of other options available to reduce compaction and still carry the load you’re looking for in an application,” he adds, noting that tire pressure and wear and tear should also be monitored in equipment used short periods of time.
“Each time a planter or other specialized equipment gets pulled out, make sure it is set up right, and check the tire pressure and what type soil or residue they’ll be going through.”
Prevent Stubble Damage
With more no-till and other conservation-till farming, there is more potential for tire damage, which results in critical downtime. There are higher seeding rates and corn hybrids with stronger stalk strength. And some corn headers may cut stalks only a few inches from the ground.
“They are literally like bamboo shoots,” Sloan says. “That can be extremely rough on tires. Everyone is trying to minimize stubble damage on tires. But it’s difficult from a tire design standpoint to make tires 100% stubble proof.”
Stalk stompers can help. Equipment companies offer stalk stomper conversion kits. The attachments level corn stalks ahead of the tractor or combine and force the stubble to the ground before it has a chance to puncture or cause uneven tire wear, according to May Wes equipment company, Hutchinson, Kansas.
Sloan encourages growers to think ahead, by ordering and installing tires well in advance of major fieldwork, then choose the right tire for the application that will fit in between the rows and stay in the row.
“We promote changing conditions,” he says. “If a guy just spent thousands of dollars to buy tires after others were damaged in the field, and then goes back to same condition that got him there in the first place, that’s probably not a good decision.”
A good way to better understand agricultural tire usage is the Industrial Tire Code. For example, an F-1 tire has an agricultural single-rib tread; F-2, agricultural multi-rib tread; F-2D, agricultural dual rib ; F-3, industrial multi-rib tread; R-1, drive wheel, regular tread (dry, well-drained soil); R-1W, wet traction tread (wet soil) and generally 25% deeper tread than R-1; and R-2, drive wheel, rice and cane (wet muck).
For more on tire inflation, go to TirePressureCalculator.com, a mobile-friendly website created by Goodyear Farm Tires to help determine the optimum inflation pressure based on load.
Randall Reeder, Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer (retired), says over-inflation of tires causes excess slippage, adding that the correct pressure improves traction, floatation and wear.
He says that for top performance, tractors need the proper weight for traction and the correct balance between front and rear axles. “You want enough weight to eliminate excess slippage, but you also want to remove ballast when it is not needed,” Reeder says.
“When pulling a load, the correct amount of slippage is 8 to 12% on a firm surface and 10 to 16% on soft ground.”
He says farmers can determine if a tractor has the right slippage by measuring the distance after 10 tire revolutions in the field pulling a normal load. Next, measure the distance after 10 revolutions with no load on a driveway or other hard surface.
“This is representative of zero slippage,” Reeder says. “Then calculate the percentage between the two numbers to determine if you have the correct slippage.”
When tractors are used during planting, spraying and other heavy usage, Reeder recommends that farmers check tire pressure once a week.
Reeder adds that precision “on-the-go inflation,” which enables the operator to increase or decrease rear tire pressure as the load on the tractor changes, can also help reduce compaction. “For a big operator with land spread around that requires frequent road travel, this could be a reasonable investment,” he says.