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As equipment has grown, so has the tire’s responsibility to bear that load. Yet, that increase in size presents its own set of problems.
“You have a huge planter that will do an incredible amount of work yet that introduces some challenges,” says Ken Brodbeck, an engineer for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “You’re carrying a huge amount of weight and that weight requires either large tires or many of them, and higher pressures.”
Even though farmers are able to cover more ground with larger equipment, super-sized machines with larger tires plus higher pressures results in added compaction. A combination that is causing Iowa farmers Lowell Garrett and Jeff Huitt to take a second look at their tires and the pressure they’re under because they believe the wheel tracks affected yield and their yield results from last year bear it out.
“Last year we noticed a significant difference in yield with this planter (90 feet, 36 rows, 30-inch spacing)/tractor combination we’d been using for five seasons,” says Jeff Huitt, who is a tractor operator for Johnson Land Company near Perry, Iowa. “As crops were growing, we could see some valleys where we had driven.”
After five years with the same equipment, why the sudden change?
“Generally speaking, the ground did not freeze the previous winter,” he says. “We had no compaction relief from the frost, which we bank on in Iowa. We see this and think this is huge.”
Not all ears looked as good as the one pictured. As Huitt started to look at the ears, he says it was like a meltdown every 90 feet.
“We did some yield comparison differences,” Huitt says. “The difference in yield between the 12 rows we planted on versus the 12 rows that were to either side was 20 bushel per acre. We figure that’s a 1/3 of the planter so you’re averaging about 6 1/2 to 7 bushels overall loss in yield.”
He knew they needed to do something to solve the problem or at least alleviate some of it.
Garrett, who farms near Adel, Iowa, saw similar issues in his fields.
“When you fold a 120-foot planter up, it puts 17,000 lbs. on the draw bar so you have to pump the rear tires up to 20 lbs. to do that,” he says. “When I get to the field, I need them back down to 6 and I have no way to do that.”
The result was added compaction.
“You could see every pass where I had been,” he says. “We have a lot of data from last year and know how much that yield loss cost us. For me, it was over $100,000 in lost revenue because of that 30-bushel reduction in the width of the tractor. Because of winter being what it was and tires having to be at 20 lbs. all of the time it really magnified last year.”
Firestone’s AD2 IF
These scenarios provided a unique opportunity to combine Firestone’s AD2 IF tires and unique inflation systems to drop pressure for transport conditions to field conditions.
On board inflation system
Huitt implemented an on board inflation system into the tractor and planter, which was developed with the help of Brodbeck. The system continuously measures tire pressure (Firestone AD2 IF 380/80R38 dual fronts, Firestone AD2 IF 480/80R50 dual rears, and 445/50R22.5 – four tires in transport on planter) and lets him adjust as needed.
“It’s all digital and adjustable to the 10ths of the pressure,” he says.
Garrett implemented a system from the German company PTG (www.PTG.info).
With the turn of a dial from the seat of the tractor cab, he can reset the psi of his tractor tires (Firestone AD2 IF 520/85R46 triples) and planter tires (445/50R22.5/4 tires in transport) to meet conditions in the field and for transport. He uses a hydraulic hose to power the air compressor.
No pressure loss
“The main concern I had when I first saw the system was all of the lines sticking out and being torn off,” Garrett says. “But the company representative assured me that they aren’t having any trouble with that at all. One nice feature is that if a line gets tore off, I won’t lose any pressure. Most of these parts are nothing special and are available here. It may not look like the same thing but I can find a similar replacement.”
Pays for itself
“I don’t know if this system can alleviate all the yield
loss because you have a lot of weight in one area but we had to do something,” says
Huitt. Garrett agrees but adds it’s a step in the right direction. “I’ve seen a
lot of stuff but I really think this is going to be the biggest bang for our
buck,” he says. “For the $15,000 to $20,000 investment I believe it will easily
pay for itself in a year.”
As equipment has grown, so has the tire’s responsibility to bear that load.