MICHELIN NEVER TYRE OF HELPING FARMERS MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES
As the only point of contact between the tractor and the soil, ensuring you have the correct tyres on your machinery – in good condition and set to the right pressures – is vitally important. Farmers with the optimum tyre and wheel configuration, set up correctly, can benefit from significant fuel savings, improved ride quality, reduced wheel slippage and increased productivity. Crucially, the correct tyres will also minimise soil damage, which subsequently improves your yields. Here, Customer Engineering Support Manager, Gordon Brookes, shares his advice and expertise gained during his 32-year career with Michelin.
What are the key things to consider when choosing your agricultural tyres?
The first step in the process is making sure you pick the right tyres for the application. Things you should carefully consider include; where is the tyre going to be working – is it going to be mainly used in the field, or will it be doing a lot of road work? How big a tyre do you actually need for the power of your tractor, what loads will you be carrying, what implements do you intend to use and how are they operated in your system? Once you’ve considered these points, you’ll be in a better place to make your selection. If possible, it’s always worth specifying your preferred choice of tyre as original equipment. Although it may cost a little extra, getting the right tyre on your new machinery is worth the additional expense.
Often, when people buy a new machine, it won’t arrive with the correct fitment for the job they want to use it for.
Not every tyre offered by the manufacturer is necessarily suitable. For instance, it may be able to handle the tractor in its naked capacity, but as soon as you stick a big heavy plough on the back, you may find that the tyres are not big enough to support that piece of equipment. Getting it right at the start is definitely cheaper in the long run. If the tyres can’t cope with the power, for example, then you can end up shredding the rubber in next to no time. Those tyres may have been a few hundred pounds cheaper than the ones you needed, but they’ve suddenly become a very expensive mistake! What sort of damage can the wrong type of tyre have on the ground you are working on?
Today the farming community is arguably better educated about tyre choice than at any time previously, and most farmers understand the huge impact their tyres can have on the soil and the productivity of their fields. The latest generations of tyres can really help farmers to reduce soil compaction and minimise rut formation – the economic impact of which are significant. Soil damage can hit your yields hard; it increases the risk of disease and can require major regeneration work to put right. For instance, ploughing or decompaction consumes considerable fuel and time, ultimately hitting you in the pocket. The consequences of rutting can be equally bad, if not worse – nothing grows in a rut! They also encourage water stagnation, which can asphyxiate plants and encourage the development of disease.
Is it always a good idea to have an expert help set up the tyres?
Absolutely. If you are in any doubt, I would always recommend asking your local accredited agricultural tyre dealer, or tyre manufacturer, for advice. The weighing and setting up service we offer is free, and available on request when you purchase Michelin tyres. We cover the whole of the UK and Ireland. Get in touch via our website, or on Twitter, and we can normally arrange a visit. It is all part of the service we offer. We are also more than happy to offer free advice on the phone before you spec tyres on a new machine. You can save a lot of work and cost potentially six-to-twelve months down the line if we can be sure your new tractor rolls off the production line on the best possible tyres for your operation.
Are tyre pressures vital to soil protection?
Yes – they are absolutely crucial. Selecting the right tyres for the job is the first step, but ensuring they are set up correctly and working at the optimum pressures is equally important. Agricultural tyres are a significant investment, so why wouldn’t you want them to be working to their absolute maximum efficiency? When we carry out farm visits, we’ll weigh machines in ideally every configuration they operate, so we can provide the farmer with bespoke pressures to suit every mission.
Are low pressures always better for the soil?
Generally speaking, yes. To avoid soil damage, you need a tyre that has the ability to carry heavy loads at low pressures in the field. We would always recommend radial tyre technology over a bias tyre. Radial technology helps to reduce compaction and increases machine traction. The tyres have a larger more stable footprint that enables better distribution of the load, with more tread blocks to grip and improve traction and soil protection.
Our patented Ultraflex technology tyres have taken agricultural fitments to the next level; in fact, they were designed by the same Michelin engineer who developed our tyres for the Space Shuttle!
As farm machinery gets larger and heavier, our tyres can carry incredibly heavy loads yet still work at really low pressures with flexible casings, spreading the footprint of the tyre over a larger area and reducing the impact on the fields in the process. Of course, most farming machinery won’t work exclusively on one surface. While you want the tyres at low pressures for the field, they will perform better at a higher pressure on the road. So, it’s getting the balance right that’s one of the major challenges for any manufacturer
Is it a good idea to fit a central tyre inflation system (CTIS) and how beneficial can it be?
If the vehicle is going to do a lot of different tasks, then a CTIS is a great option. If you want to optimise a tractor’s performance, productivity and reduce costs – then a CTIS is the easiest way to do it. If you have got a tractor doing one job all day and the weights never change, then you don’t need a CTIS. You just need the right tyres for the job, and the pressures simply need to be maintained. However, if you are doing different jobs, going from the road to field, for instance, and you haven’t got the time to change the pressures manually, then you would benefit from a CTIS to ensure you are getting the best possible tyre performance all day long.
Quite often, all farmers look at is what’s called ‘basic’ or ‘suitable for field work’ specification. That’s fine when the tyres are in the field where the tractor is working at up to 15 kph, but it’s a different matter when it’s doing 50 or 65 kph on the road at close to maximum weight. Talk us through some of the latest Michelin products helping farmers preserve their soil.
Our Ultraflex technology tyres can make a huge difference to soil protection. Scientific research, led by Harper Adams University in Shropshire, found that farmers fitting Ultraflex tyres can benefit from a 4% increase in yield. That’s a pretty significant figure. To put it into perspective, the study suggested that if all agricultural vehicles in the main wheat-growing areas of the world fitted Ultraflex tyres, 23 million additional tonnes of wheat would be produced each year!
These tyres have a larger footprint than conventional fitments, spreading the weight of the machine over a larger ground area. Increasing contact with the ground improves traction and decreases wheel slippage, which in turn allows farmers to spend less time in the field; improving productivity and saving fuel. We also manufacture some Ultraflex tyres with reinforced sidewalls and special rubber compounds to keep them stable even at very low pressures.
The range is designed to cover the entire crop growing cycle, including AxioBib, AxioBib 2, EvoBib, XeoBib and YieldBib tyres for tractors, CereXBib tyres for combines and forage harvesters, plus SprayBib fitments for high-clearance sprayers. We even have CargoXBib High Flotation tyres for trailers. Working alongside TractAir, famers now also have access to our Zen@Terra CTIS. New onto the UK market in 2020, it allows farmers to adjust tyre pressures at the touch of a button.
It connects via the ISOBUS of the tractor and can work with any Michelin agricultural tyre in our range. However, it works best with our award-winning ‘2- in-1’ EvoBib tyre, which features a smart tread pattern that evolves to match the application. When set at high pressures for road work, the tyres’ adapted tread pattern allows greater stability, improved fuel savings and reduced wear and tear. Working at low pressures in the field, the tyres’ footprint spreads across a wider and longer surface, helping to boost traction and prevent soil compaction. It’s seriously clever stuff!
Huge amounts of time and money has gone into the research and development of these products, with the overriding focus to help farmers and contractors to get the absolute maximum performance from their machinery. And that’s what we all want to see at the end of the day.