Today’s ag tires may not be able to exactly match the reduced levels of compaction and floatation tracks offer, but Increased Flexion (IF) and Very High Flexion (VF) radial tires have narrowed the performance gap between tracks and tires considerably.
IF tires are capable at operating at up to 20 per cent reduced air pressures and VF radials hit the 40 per cent inflation reduction mark when compared to standard radials. That significantly improves their performance.
This year marks 10 years of Michelin’s trademark Ultraflex Tire production, which includes lines that use both IF and VF technology. To commemorate that anniversary, the company recently conducted tire demonstrations at its research center in Ladoux France in late September. A select group of farmers, tire dealers and “other industry influencers” from around the world were invited to attend the event, which showcased the company’s tire innovations.
At the French facility, a tractor carrying a load of nearly 10,000 pounds was driven over a pit filled with thin layers of soil of alternating colours to demonstrate the impact of tire pressure. In one test, a standard radial tire was used. Then, the air pressure was lowered to simulate an Ultraflex tire. The reduction in soil compaction was noticeable.
Because IF and VF tires operate on lower air pressures than standard radials, they leave a bigger footprint that distributes a machine’s weight over a larger area. That’s what leads to lower soil compaction. The expanded footprints also offer better traction, which translates directly to another huge benefit: improved fuel economy, because wheel slip is reduced.
“Lower air pressure helps spread the weight of heavy farm equipment, resulting in a larger footprint, which reduces soil compaction,” said James Crouch, farm segment marketing manager for Michelin North America. “Lower compaction helps protect crop yields and offers better traction, which in turn improves fuel economy and productivity in the field.”
But getting that benefit from an IF or VF radial ag tire is only possible when inflation pressure is properly set. Determining what pressure settings should be depends on the axle load, and maximum travel speeds, according to Crouch. If farmers can’t determine the axle weights for a tractor from available information, Crouch recommends they weigh the tractor at a grain terminal or other scale to get an accurate number. With that information farmers can refer to tire manufacturers’ published inflation tables for recommended settings based on axle weights and maximum travel speeds.
“The OE manufacturer can give you a pretty good idea of how weight is distributed on that machine,” he added. “With a little math you can figure out how much load is on each individual tire. With that you can look at any (tire) manufacturer’s website and bring up a load table. Our sales force also carries DOT-rated scales in their work trucks. And they’ll actually come to the farm and weigh your equipment.”
Crouch confirmed that service is available in Western Canada. Michelin customers can take advantage of it through their local Michelin ag tire dealer.
And this summer, Michelin announced some additions to both the standard and Ultraflex tire lines.
The SprayBib group grows by one with a new VF420/95R50 177D, a 50-inch model. It’s the industry’s first VF sprayer tire offered in this larger size according to Michelin. It shares all the qualities of the current 46-inch SprayBib range but offers them for bigger sprayers that carry heavier loads.
Available near the end of 2014, the company also introduced the standard radial 480/95 R50 AgriBib rear tractor tire, which provides a taller tire option with enhanced ride and clean-out characteristics for MFWD and four-wheel drive tractors.