Extreme winter weather has left fields extremely wet or waterlogged. Using heavy machinery in wet conditions increases the risk of soil compaction so farmers are being advised to adjust tyre pressures or risk causing irreparable damage.
Richard Hutchins, agricultural tyre specialist for Continental, warns of widespread soil damage if farmers do not set the correct tyre pressures for wet ground. “Farmers should be looking to set the lowest possible pressures for field work. The severe winter has waterlogged many fields which will take weeks or months to dry out fully. If heavy machinery needs to be used for cultivation or drilling then farmers can reduce the risk of soil compaction by choosing the correct tyre pressures,” he says.
Establishing the load of the vehicle is critical to establishing the correct tyre pressure. Technical data sheets are available from most major manufacturer websites, but Continental has also introduced a new mobile app. The ‘Agriculture TyreTech’ App is now available for iOS and Android. Using a database of all available Continental tyres, the app is able to cross reference the properties of the tyre with the load of the vehicle and recommend the best tyre pressure. “The app is an easy way for farmers in the field to see what pressure their tyres should be based on the axle load of their machine,” says Mr Hutchins.
Adjusting the pressure of a tyre changes the footprint which allows the weight of the vehicle to be spread over a larger surface area. “If the tyre pressure is lowered in wet conditions, the operator will achieve greater grip, be able to operate more efficiently and the tyres will travel over the land with less resistance, which will reduce the risk of soil compaction,” explains Mr Hutchins.
The correct pressure for tractor tyres is dependent on the load and speed required to carry out the required task. Not using the correct pressure is a major cause of soil compaction. It can also damage the tyre, lower work rates and increase fuel consumption. “Government pressures and environmental concerns about soil health can, in part, be addressed by accurate use of machinery to reduce compaction. Continental has invested €2.5 million in an agriculture-focussed research and evaluation centre to develop tyres that help meet these concerns,” concludes Mr Hutchins.