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Strike back at stubble

Reducing damage from stalks and stubble on combine and tractor tires remains an issue for growers as they head to the fields. And while manufacturers have been working to develop compounds that will resist stubble damage, it's been challenging to keep up with the rapidly changing plant genetics that make stalks stronger with each new generation.

Some options the industry is exploring include hybrid compounds that produce an extremely hard, puncture-resistant compound on the outside. Obviously, a concrete-like tire wouldn't perform well in the field, and it would be extremely brittle. Other ideas being considered are Kevlar-protected treads and decks.


“It's really a balancing act all manufacturers are dealing with,” says Scott Sloan, product engineering manager for Titan Tire Corporation. “We want to create a harder tire compound, but you cannot give up performance in the field, let alone operator comfort when traveling on the road. The industry is working to catch up with plant technology.”

Having some age on your tires can actually be beneficial. Rubber is a living, breathing substance and is in a constantly changing state. So as a tire ages, the rubber compounds become harder and stronger, which means the tire becomes less susceptible to stubble damage.

But because there are limited inventories, many tires leave the factory and are installed on a tractor or implement within weeks. Fresh tires equal increased susceptibility to stubble damage.

“It's important for farmers to think ahead and order and install tires well in advance of major fieldwork,” Sloan says. “Allowing tires to age before hitting the field lets compounds and oils dry, making the tire more resilient or tougher.”

Protect your investment

Here are four steps you can take to protect your investment.

1. Choose the right tire for the application. “If the task at hand is heavy spring and fall tillage, make sure the tire is designed for that application,” says Skip Sagar, Titan sales representative. “Then select a tire width that fits in between the rows and stays in the row. Using a tire width that's too wide is just asking for trouble. Instead, look at duals or triples for additional flotation. Selecting a tire with a heavier ply or load rating can also help provide additional protection.”

2. Set the tractor axle spacing to run in the row, not on top. Be sure to run with the row when working in the field as opposed to against the row.

3. Properly inflate the tires. Properly inflated tires are also a key component to tire wear since low tire pressures can lead to excessive flexing in the tire, and this can result in sidewall damage from contact with the stubble.

4. Modify equipment by installing a device that flattens stalks like the Stalk Crusher (pictured at left). This invention is a tractor- and combine-mountable device for flattening cornstalks and beanstalks. Created by a farmer, the patent-pending design features 50% fewer parts than its competitor and offers the first swing-away mount for loading on a header cart.

Single units with mounts retail for $299; single units without mounts retail for $199.

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