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Advantages of super wide tires on tractors and combines

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cancelled most events, attendees at some of the major farm shows were treated to a rather unusual demonstration. Sponsored by Mitas Tire, it involved a New Holland T4 110 tractor equipped with super wide flotation tires (1250/50R32 on the rear and 1000/50R25 on the front) driving into a pond and literally floating in eight feet of water as the tires “paddled” it around.

Obviously, the demonstration was intended to illustrate a point, even if a tractor that size wouldn’t normally be equipped with tires that large. The goal was to prove that the new super single tires could dramatically improve flotation in the field. And, in fact, greater flotation and reduced soil compaction are one of the main features that these unique tires offer.

However, whether you call them super singles, super wide tires, or LSW (low sidewall tires), there are also places and situations in which the wide-profile options fall short of the benefits provided by traditional duals. And just to be clear, not all super wide tires are LSW tires and not all LSW tires are super wide tires. Low Sidewall Technology (or LSW) is the name of the tire design developed by Titan that features a smaller sidewall combined with a larger rim wheel to provide the same height as the standard assembly. The benefit in any size is less power hop and reduced road lope, since there’s less sidewall recoil.

“If you’re not running between the rows post-emergence, there’s really no reason to be running duals when the appropriately sized super singles can carry the same load at up to 40 percent lower inflation pressures,” says Scott Sloan, global ag/LSW product manager for Titan International, maker of Goodyear Farm Tires. “We particularly see the benefit of super single tires on combines and planter tractors,” he adds. “Not only do our wide LSW super singles reduce compaction ahead of the planter, but the improved flotation allows a producer to get into the field a day or two earlier when schedules are tight and fields conditions are still less than ideal.”

The same thing could be said about the benefits of super singles on a combine. Sloan is quick to point out, however, that flotation and reduced compaction are not the same thing.

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“I can put a piece of cardboard over a mud puddle and you can step on it without getting your foot muddy,” he explains. “That would be flotation. On the other hand, the area directly below your foot would be the point of compaction,” he adds, noting that bogie wheels on track tractors can sometimes produce the same effect.

As proof, Titan compared the ground bearing pressure of the company’s Goodyear LSW1400 tires on a John Deere 9620R versus a John Deere 9RX track machine. Technicians found the ground pressure from the super singles was an average of 16 percent lower than tracks, with the maximum-recorded pressure being 38 percent lower than the maximum pressure of tracks.

In trials against both John Deere and Case IH Quadtrac machines, slip was nearly comparable with 0 to 6 percent slip on the track machines versus 0 to 9 percent from the LSW super singles.

“In the meantime, the operator is saving several thousand dollars on tires versus tracks, and he has far less maintenance,” Sloan adds.

Producers who do a lot of roading in less rural areas might want to consider super singles over duals, as well, says Austin Fischer, Firestone Ag Field Engineer.

“In certain situations, super singles can enable a narrower transport-width vehicle than one with duals,” he relates. “That can be particularly beneficial on heavily traveled roads and in areas where you still find one-lane bridges. Otherwise, it’s not necessarily about the overall width of the tire, but more about putting as much rubber on the ground as possible and maximizing the tire contact area at the lowest possible inflation pressure.

“Naturally, one big drawback of super singles is that their width prevents them from being able to straddle the crop rows, which keeps them from being used to perform tasks like side dressing and spraying,” Fischer continues. “Another consideration is stubble damage. Despite improvements in rubber compounds, you can’t help but run over crop stubble when using super singles on a combine or on a tractor pulling a grain cart. That’s still a big concern for some producers.”

“We’ve also had some customers complain that their 1400s create a wall of mud in front of the tire,” says Patrick Spangler, product specialist with NTS Tire Supply in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. “When that happens, farmers need to adjust differently. Where the tendency would be to power through it, as you would with duals, you need to back off so the tire can ‘float’ over the mud. Farmers who have had success with 1400 singles say that they slow down 1–1.5 mph when crossing wet areas, which helps the mud ‘flow around the tires’,” he adds, noting that duals, in contrast, can leave deeper ruts and ball up with mud between the tires. “Consequently, the overwhelming majority of customers who have switched to 1250 or 1400 super singles for their combines would never go back to duals.”

“On the other hand, there aren’t a lot of situations where super singles are going to add traction,” adds Sky Schweiss, another product specialist with NTS Tire Supply. “A number of customers who put them on four-wheel-drive tractors or front-wheel-assist tractors have ended up having to add weight for traction. If you’re looking for traction versus flotation, you would probably be better off with a pair of LSW 800 or 900 duals instead of the 1400s.”

However, Titan’s Scott Sloan says the company’s new LSW Custom Flo Grip tires have helped alleviate both the traction and mud issues. That’s because they feature a deeper tread design to better channel mud to the sides and improve traction in all conditions.

Schweiss says it’s also important to remember the super singles are designed for low air pressure, which affects their load carrying capacity. “If a customer is carrying a load on a planter tractor that requires more than 15 pounds of air pressure in the tires, we would still recommend duals,” he explains, pointing to a large 3-point mounted planter and/or a pair of large saddle tanks as heavy load examples. “But if he doesn’t need that high air pressure, super singles are going to offer better flotation and less compaction ahead of the planter, which can result in higher yields. 

“In fact, in one trial, Titan found that corn planted with a tractor wearing Goodyear LSW super singles yielded five bushes more per acre compared to ground planted with duals,” he adds. “In its soybean test plot, they discovered a six-bushel-per-acre yield boost.”

“We still sell more duals than we do super singles,” Spangler adds. “But we pride ourselves on working with our customers to determine what will work best for them. The best fit for one farmer may not be beneficial for his neighbor.”

Fortunately, advice is as close as your nearest ag tire dealer or the phone, via company ag specialist hotlines, such as the ones offered by Firestone (800-847-3364), Titan (800-262-3397) and NTS (800-854-4554). One thing is certain, though. Super singles are here to stay.

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