It makes for great coffee shop debates. Do rubber-belt track systems really offer advantages over cutting edge radial tires? And if so, do those advantages outweigh the extra investment cost? Camso (formerly known as Camoplast Solideal), the ag industry’s largest track systems supplier, has launched a new research program called “Profit From the Ground Up,” designed, it says, to answer exactly those questions.
According to the company, the initial round of data collected in the program’s open-ended, real-world field trials proves rubber-belt track systems can add some profit to a farm’s bottom line.
“’Profit From the Ground Up,’ basically, is our approach to the market,” says Martin Lunkenbein, business line executive director, agriculture at Camso. “We want to make sure that what we deliver to the grower is a tool to increase their business. We’re trying to get everyone to look at it not as rubber and steel but as tools that a farmer will have in his toolbox to grow his business.”
A detailed discussion of soil compaction and other agronomic aspects aren’t front and centre in Camso’s description of the test results, although they’re bound to be the underlying factors driving any benefits. Instead, the company has cut to the chase, focusing on farmers’ bottom lines by asking, will you make more money with tracks through increased yields.
“We’re doing work in the fields with farmers to quantify the benefits of switching over to track systems,” he adds. “We’re working with them to move away from just using terms like compaction and ground damage and move toward what it really means: how much more yield is it driving?”
In it’s first season of partnering with farmers and comparing tracks to tires, the company focused on heavy planters. It released the results of that first “chapter” of testing at the U.S. Farm Progress Show last August.
“One of the examples of what we’ve done is side-by-side planting with a planter on wheels and one on track systems,” Lunkenbein adds. “We’re showing a five per cent increase in yield. So basically, the farmer is getting a return on his investment in less than a year in this particular case due to the size of his farm (1,500 acres) just by making that conversion.”
Testing suggests those gains are coming, in part, from a reduction in the number of “pinch points.” By reducing the planters from four tires to two tracks, so the number of compaction passes is reduced. That improves water filtration and adds to seed placement accuracy. At the end of the initial test season, the company report claimed more even crop maturity and yield gains with tracks.
The Camso research isn’t alone in showing yield improvements Lunkenbein points out: “If you look around at other work being done by Gregg Sauder at Yield 360 (360yieldcenter.com), he’s showing some very similar results as well. So what we’re demonstrating is not unique.”
On headlands, Camso’s data showed a 15 per cent gain in yield, but that testing is in the early stages and it’s not clear why the gain is higher there.
“That’s fresh data that we have,” he adds. “And those need to be confirmed. We have to understand that and how we can drive that on a repeatable basis.”
Camso’s initial round of testing was done in the U.S. But the company plans to expand the geographic base for its data collection by including various locations in North America and Europe in future evaluations.
“We have to do comparative studies in different soil types and different geographies so that what we’re putting out in terms of yield results stays true across the board,” says Derek Bradeen, Camso marketing strategy and communications director. “And (determining) it’s not the geography that contributes to that yield increase, it’s the Camso belt and track system.”
“There will be those ‘yeah buts’ (from doubters) at the beginning,” Lunkenbein acknowledges. “But that’s why, for us, it’s an ongoing project. We’ve demonstrated it in one area. Now we’re moving on to different areas, different applications, different soil types to be able to substantiate this is not just one lucky event.”
The next chapter the company expects to release will focus on the effects of tracks on combines. That data should be available sometime in February.
“We’ve done the first chapter, if you will, on planters,” says Bradeen. “This is being done on combines right now and other chapters include sprayers, tractors and different applications throughout the farming duty cycle.”
“What we’re finding is every time you touch a field with one of the pieces of equipment throughout the growing cycle from field preparation to harvest there is an impact,” Lunkenbein says. “We’re quantifying that impact and driving it all the way back to yield. These improvements are what’s driving our product development to help growers increase the efficiency of their business. That’s where the focus has to be for us.”