Sunk in the mud. Fighting to stay between the rows. Tossed around the cab. There’s no question about it: spraying can be a pain, especially at the end of a 16-hour day. Think you’re stuck with poor sprayer performance? Actually, you’re not. By equipping your sprayer with the right tires—and running them at the right air pressure—you can improve (or outright fix) most of the problems that come with a heavy self-propelled sprayer.
Tire Pressure: The Real Skinny on Sprayer Tires
Sprayers are restricted to some of the narrowest tires in the business. This fact, along with a sprayer’s huge payload and design (high center of gravity), is a major source of all your sprayer troubles. However, there’s another ingredient in the mix: tire pressure. Because their air chambers are small relative to the big donuts you’d find on a 4WD tractor, for example, sprayer tires need to be inflated to higher pressures to withstand the sprayer’s weight when loaded.
Weight and Speed: Roading Requires High Tire Pressures
You also have to consider all the road miles a sprayer racks up. Remember that tires have to be inflated for a particular load and speed. You have to account for both factors whenever you’re setting tire pressures. Low tire pressures on the road would be a recipe for fast tire wear or even dangerous tire failures.
Those Same High Pressures Cause You Big Problems in the Field
In the field, however, high tire pressures cause the sprayer issues you’re familiar with: poor handling, a punishing ride, and rutting. Sprayer tire tracks are sometimes called “pizza-cutter tracks” for good reason: these tires can leave deep, narrow ruts in the soil, thanks to the massive amount of pressure transferred to the ground by their small footprints.
Compaction: Your Biggest In-Field Performance Problem
Another problem that high tire pressures bring to the field is soil compaction. In fact, compaction is the #1 issue NTS Tire Supply helps farmers solve through smart traction strategies. Why? Because compaction is costing your operation a lot of money. Keep in mind that it’s not just your sprayer causing compaction in your fields, but it can be a big contributor because of its heavy loads and narrow tires. Here’s what one study from Iowa State University Extension found regarding compaction’s potential financial impact:
Plotting Compaction’s Danger to Your Soil
At its 2017 Compaction Action Event, the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario used sensors buried in the ground at 6, 12, and 20 inches deep to gauge the potential of various machines to cause soil compaction. Sprayers, riding on both wide floaters and narrow row-crop tires, were among the machines tested.
Learn More: View the study’s complete results.
The charts below look at two of the runs using a sprayer equipped with 420/95R50 radials.
You can see the reduction in soil pressure as the researchers dropped the sprayer’s tire pressures. As stated in the study’s results, the soil sensors weren’t measuring compaction: They were measuring the amount of “stress” on the soil. Higher levels of soil pressure, or stress, can lead to a higher risk of yield-robbing soil compaction. The actual amount of compaction caused can vary and depends on several factors:
- Soil health
- Soil moisture
- Crop history
- Tillage practices
- Implement size and weight
- Tire/track configuration
- Inflation pressure.
The chart below shows the compaction risk that various ground pressures pose. Obviously, it’s better to stay out of the “extreme” or “very high” ranges.
Increase Your Sprayer’s Tire Footprint to Improve Performance
The study results above demonstrate why you need to keep your sprayer tire pressures as low as possible in the field. When you fight compaction, you also solve (or improve) the other common sprayer performance issues. When you lower the air pressure in a tire, its footprint grows longer.
It’s the larger, longer footprint that allows your sprayer to:
- Float over the soil, not plow through it.
- Improve fuel economy.
- Stay between the rows with less effort.
- Ride and handle better than a carnival ride with shoddy maintenance.
Your First Step: Invest in VF Tires
Advanced rubber compounds and highly technical sidewalls allow VF (very increased flexion) radial tires to handle more weight (or the same weight at lower air pressures) and help them put down larger, more uniform, rectangular footprints in the field. Very High Flex (VF) tires can carry 40 percent more load at a standard radial’s inflation pressure—or the same load (as a standard tire) at 40 percent less pressure. Using the lower inflation pressure of an IF or VF tire enlarges the tire’s footprint and can provide significant improvements in flotation and fuel economy in addition to fighting compaction.
Top VF Tire Picks for Your Sprayer
Even in narrower row-crop sizes, there are several sprayer-specific VF tire choices that lighten the load on your soil. Here are a few of our favorites:
Best Tire for Roading: Alliance 363 Agriflex+
Alliance products compete well with major brands like Michelin and Firestone. Additionally, Agriflex tires boast an industry-leading 10-year warranty. The unique lugs on the 363 Agriflex + are divided into separate blocks, providing both good traction in the field and superior comfort for high-speed road travel.
Best Tire if You’re on a Strict Budget: BKT Agrimax Spargo
The BKT Agrimax Spargo has become a go-to budget tire for NTS customers. Although priced lower than some of our other favorite sprayer tires, it’s not cheap on performance.
Best Overall Sprayer Tire: Michelin SprayBib
Michelin was the first to debut IF/VF tire technology, and the company’s experience in the marketplace shows. The Michelin SprayBib tire offers an excellent ride across the field and wears long even under heavy loads. There isn’t a better tire than the Michelin SprayBib when it comes to putting down a long, even footprint. The downside? It can burn a tire-sized hole in your wallet.
Read More: Fight bad handling and regain lost yields with VF sprayer tires.
Consider Floaters for Pre-Season Passes
When you don’t need to stay between the rows, a set of floaters may be your best option for increasing your sprayer’s footprint. Consider this example: A 380/90R46 Firestone 9000 Radial tire has a footprint of 260 square inches. A 650/65R38 (the most common flotation tire size) Firestone 9000 Radial provides a 390-square-inch footprint. That’s an extra 130 square inches of ground contact per tire to spread the machine’s weight more evenly over the ground.
Learn More: A look at the top floater tires for your sprayer.
NTS Tire Supply stocks both new and used flotation tires and wheels for all major sprayer brands and models. You can use our sprayer flotation tire configurator to review your options or talk to an NTS Tire Supply tire expert.
Add More Footprint with Sprayer Duals
Most growers aren’t going to run floaters across the field once the crop is up. Another way to add footprint is to bolt on a set of sprayer duals. Some sprayers will see a benefit from a set on one axle, while others will need duals on both.
Learn More: Sprayer duals can help carry your sprayer through spring’s worst.
Are sprayer duals right for your farm? Speak to one of our traction experts and we’ll discuss your options.
Take Total Control of Your Sprayer’s Performance with CTIS
Top-tech VF radials are a step in the right direction if you want to optimize your sprayer’s performance. If you want to give your soil—and your bottom line—the best protection against compaction, low fuel economy, and poor handling, install a PTG central tire inflation system (CTIS) on your sprayer (self propelled or pull behind).
Optimize Your Tire Pressures for Road and Field
You’ve already discovered the basic problem: Your sprayer’s tires have to perform in two worlds. You need high pressure for the road. And low pressure for the field. Without CTIS and the ability to change your tire pressures throughout the day, you’re left with no good choice except to run your tires at high, road-friendly pressures everywhere. And this is the root cause of all your sprayer problems in the field. If you set a compromise tire pressure—somewhere between ideal road and field pressures—your sprayer isn’t optimized for anything.
Read More: Apply chemicals, not compaction, with a central tire inflation system on your sprayer.
Invest in Your Farm’s Future
As with any traction technology, CTIS requires an initial investment. However, this investment can return ROI to your farm in several ways:
- Increase yields
- Improve handling and ride
- Extend tire life
- Boost fuel economy on the road and in the field.
See How CTIS Increases Your Sprayer’s Footprint and Productivity
These actual footprint maps show how CTIS can provide the optimized footprints that will transform your sprayer’s performance. Inflated to 50 psi, the 380/105R50 tires provide the smallest footprint possible for efficient road travel. When the pressure is lowered to the ideal field pressure of 25 psi, the footprint grows by 30%. As you’ve already learned, when your sprayer’s footprint increases, so does its performance in the field.
Apply Chemicals without Compaction
With CTIS on your sprayer, you control your sprayer’s performance at the touch of a button. And getting set up with a system is just as easy. First, talk with a CTIS Product Specialist at NTS Tire Supply. We’ll discuss all the details, including installation. Once your system is installed, you’re ready to Drive Your Farm Forward with optimized sprayer performance. Less sprayer blight. Less fatigue at the end of a long day. And higher levels of productivity for one of your farm’s most important operations.