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How tyre choice can protect soils this autumn

July 31, 2018 by  
Filed under News & Business

Increasingly variable weather conditions are highlighting the importance of managing tyres correctly to minimise soil damage and compaction.

Unprecedented wet weather last winter and into spring illustrated how the right tyre choice and management could minimise damage caused to soils by agricultural machinery – while enabling operators to obtain optimum performance.

“With most fields at or close to maximum water-holding capacity for several months, many lost considerable structure and the hot summer means we now have extremely dry conditions to contend with,” says Mitas UK technical manager Kirk Walker.

Using the correct tyre pressure for the job can do much to minimise risks. But maintaining traction performance whist running tyres at the lower pressures needed to protect soil structure is not easy, explains Mr Walker.

“The relationship between ground pressure and tyre inflation pressure is approximately one-to-one, so select a tyre which will operate at the lowest pressure for a given load and speed.

“This will maximise the area in contact with the ground and help to keep the machine on top of the soil, avoiding ruts which cause operational issues and must be removed later.

Wear and tear

“Setting tyre pressures correctly can also minimise wheel slip, reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, increase work rates, reduce wear-and-tear on machinery, improve operator comfort and significantly cut maintenance costs.”

But many operators place handling and ride on the road above soil protection, and not all will reduce pressures in the field to match conditions, he points out.

“Most tractors operate at 15–25% slippage to maximise traction, but there’s room to reduce this without losing performance, if we can lower tyre pressures further.

“In difficult conditions, consider reducing the load on the tractor to allow lower tyre pressures, while remaining within manufacturer’s guidelines.

“That could mean dropping a furrow off the plough or only partially filling a linkage-mounted or trailed sprayer or fertiliser spreader.”

On the road, higher pressures will be required and adjusting them to the correct levels will improve steering accuracy, braking performance and stability, contributing to safer operation and avoiding overheating the tyre, he points out.

“Correctly-adjusted tyres will also provide lower rolling resistance and fuel consumption, wear evenly and last longer.”

Next generation solution

New-generation High Flexion VF tyres provide lower ground pressure, better traction and can run high road speeds at lower pressures, Mr Walker points out.

“Their sidewalls are designed to deform much more than conventional tyres without structural damage to the carcase and they look very different to standard fitments in operation because their considerably lower pressures can increase the footprint by 25%.

“As well as treading more gently, improving traction and reducing fuel consumption a well set up VF system is considerably more practical.

“You can plough in the morning, then haul a trailer in the afternoon without having to adjust anything, making them the perfect choice for most farmers and contractors.”

Mitas is continually innovating and collaborates closely with machinery manufacturers. Working with Claas, for example, Mitas has developed the CHO (Cyclic Harvest Operation) SVT tyre, he adds.

“This has a sidewall structure that allows a 31% reduction in inflation pressure for the same load when compared to a standard tyre and provides a 24% increase in footprint to spread the load and protect soils without needing to go to wider widths.”

Look to future

Soil expert Dick Godwin believes the UK cultivation landscape faces major change with massively conflicting demands placed on it.

“The three-crop rule and latest environmental legislation, for example, are forcing many growers to think differently about how they manage soils,” says Professor Unwin.

“Experiences of difficult establishment periods, long wet winters, reducing chemical efficacy and product revocations limiting traditional agronomic approaches are real concerns.”


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