The term ‘precision agriculture’ brings to mind a long list of technologies that have made farmers more efficient and profitable over the last few decades—auto-steer, variable-rate applications, yield mapping, and zone management, in-season crop imagery... The list goes right down to perfectly placed seed with your planter.
In thinking about all of the ‘precision ag’ technologies you can implement on your farm, did tires even cross your mind? If you’re like most farmers, probably not. After all, tires are basically all the same, aren’t they? Sure, the tread design may vary and some may last a little longer than others, but at the end of the day, does it really make a difference what kind of rubber your equipment runs on?
And we aren’t saying that to push tires. After working with thousands of farmers, analyzing dozens of research trials, testing products ourselves, and seeing how countless tires have performed in the real-world, we know that having the right tire or track setup can make a world of difference when it comes to your equipment’s performance and your farm’s profitability.
There are several ways that the wrong tires (or tracks) can keep your operation from achieving its full potential. Soil compaction is arguably one of the biggest profit nabbing culprits on your farm. We want to help you push back against compaction.
How many bushels are you losing from soil compaction?
Soil compaction is stealing your profits—even if you haven’t noticed it in your fields. Research has shown that soil compaction can slash yields by up to 15% in a single year. It can also slash your yields for over a decade—even with tillage and no additional compaction.
If you’re used to pulling in 200 bushel per acre corn yields, you probably could have topped the hopper at 230 bushels per acre had it not been for soil compaction. And unfortunately, the loss doesn’t stop here. Even if you stopped causing new soil compaction (which is unlikely), you will probably lose another 80 bushels per acre over the next 4 growing seasons. That adds up to more than 110 bushels per acre lost in 5 years.
To put this into a dollar amount, let’s say you can get $3.75 per bushel for your corn and you grow 1,000 acres of it each year. Your your lost profit potential over those 5 growing seasons is over $400,000. Imagine the difference this could make for your farm’s finances!
You may be skeptical. Is soil compaction really costing you that much? We think so.
A three-year research trial performed by Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® shows a 12.6 bu/acre average yield loss on pinch rows from central-fill planters.
Even if you haven’t taken the time to calculate the yield loss in your fields, you can be fairly certain that soil compaction is slashing your profits—and by more dollars than you realize.
Soil compaction is a problem, but, fortunately, the solution is clear: Stop compacting your fields and you can stop yield loss and become more profitable.
Reduce Soil Compaction in Your Fields in 3 Steps
So you want to start reducing soil compaction and reclaim those lost bushels, but you’re not exactly sure how to do it. Fortunately, we make it easy to overcome soil compaction in 3 simple steps.
1) Find the real source of compaction.
The single most common mistake that farmers make when trying to identify their main source of compaction is automatically ruling out equipment with tracks as a potential cause. In fact, tracks can cause more compaction than a set of tires running at a low inflation pressure!
How do you identify the top compaction-causing culprit on your farm? While it’s not 100% foolproof, analyzing your equipment based on the following three factors will get you started on the right track.
If you’re still running around your fields with bias ply tires, swapping them out for a set of radial tires should be your first move.
Tracks are a wildcard. Sometimes they aren’t an issue, but all too often they are still a major compaction driver. If you have tracks, it’s best to get an expert involved in analyzing your compaction problems.
Tire Air Pressure
There is a direct correlation between the recommended inflation pressure for a tire, the machine’s weight (or load), and footprint size. The heavier the load, the more air you need in your tires to carry it. And the more air pressure in your tires, the smaller your footprint—it’s a recipe for severe compaction.
Time & Frequency of Traffic
All things equal, wheel traffic in the spring generally causes more yield loss than wheel traffic in the fall. This is because fall tillage can help break up some of the compaction you created during the growing season.
There is a big exception to this rule though: equipment driven in your fields under wet soil conditions will crush your short- and long-term yields the most. Equipment that enters your fields regardless of the soil condition—such as sprayers, combines, and grain carts—should be looked at first.
Traffic frequency also impacts how much your yields are impacted by a machine. A combine with an 8-row corn head is touching a lot more of your soil than a sprayer with a 90’ boom, so it would make sense to address your combine first.
2) Identify your best option for reducing soil compaction.
Now that you’ve found your main source of compaction, it’s time to figure out what you can do to fix it. This can be the most challenging part because most farmers don’t know all of the options that exist. The best thing you can do is talk with an expert at NTS Tire Supply to find the solution that will best fit your machine and operation. It’s hard to replace the experience we’ve gained from helping 5,000+ farmers source the right tires, wheels, and tracks for their equipment. It’s easy to spend a lot of money and still not improve your situation, or worse, cause new problems.
If you are motivated to explore options on your own, your goal should be to achieve the lowest possible inflation pressure in your tires. You can do this by investing in increased flexion (IF) or very increased flexion (VF) tires, central tire inflation systems (CTIS), changing tire sizes, adding tires, or adjusting your machine’s ballasting to name a few.
3) Execute. Analyze. Repeat.
Once you’ve identified your best option for reducing soil compaction, it’s time to take action. If it’s new tires you need, NTS Tire Supply offers every major brand, and we have a massive inventory of used tires, tracks, wheels, and hardware as well. Our service trucks will come to your farm to make sure your equipment gets set up properly.
Analyze the change in your equipment’s performance. It’ll likely ride better, burn less fuel, save you time, and ultimately, make you more profitable.
Repeat. You probably have several machines on your farm that need optimizing. And after you experience what it’s like to operate equipment with an optimized tire setup, the decision to keep progressing will be simple and rewarding.
Get Help Fighting Soil Compaction on Your Farm
Sometimes, there is no substitution for experience. Talk with an expert at NTS Tire Supply about possible compaction issues on your farm and start increasing your yields with the right tires and wheels on your equipment.