Michelin North America Inc. says lower-pressure tires can reduce soil compaction caused by larger and heavier farming equipment.
“Lower-pressure tires produce a larger tire footprint, which distributes the weight of the machine over the largest area possible to reduce compaction,” says James Crouch, farm segment marketing manager for Michelin.
“In addition, a larger tire footprint provides excellent traction in the field, which can improve fuel economy by reducing slippage.”
Michelin says academic research has demonstrated the benefits of lower-pressure tires that provide higher flexion than standard radial agriculture tires, which reduces soil compaction.
Harper Adams University in the United Kingdom recently completed a three-year study involving Michelin’s Ultraflex IF (Increased Flexion) and VF (Very High Flexion) tires that demonstrated a yield increase of up to 4% compared to standard radial agriculture tires.
“There’s a lot more research planned, which we also hope to bring to the United States, to further demonstrate how lower-pressure tires can help farmers increase their yields and productivity,” Crouch said.
Crouch and other experts have five recommendations to help farmers minimize soil compaction.
1. Check and maintain proper tire pressure as temperature changes throughout the growing season, particularly in the spring if new tires or equipment were purchased the previous fall or winter. Every increase of nine to 10 degrees in ambient air temperature can raise tire pressure by one psi, or lower it by that same amount as temperature decreases.
2. Reduce total axle load by operating the lightest possible equipment for each application that still efficiently transfers horsepower to the ground with minimal slippage. Ensure that total machine weight conforms to manufacturer specifications.
3. Minimize the number of trips over the field and reduce the area of the field on which equipment is operated. Limit heavy machinery to the same lanes through the field each season. Only the controlled traffic lanes become compacted, sparing soil between the lanes.
4. Use duals and large-diameter tires, since the larger surface area can help reduce tire pressure against the soil.
5. When additional machine weight is needed, use cast iron ballast instead of filling tires with liquid ballast. Liquid ballast changes the flexion of the tires, resulting in a smaller footprint.
“Proper tire management and other practices can help reduce soil compaction, even though it can’t be eliminated totally,” Crouch says. “Protecting the soil is one of the best investments farmers can make to improve their crop performance and their bottom lines.”
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