Rethink rubber to cut compaction, spare crops
As more farmers realize a positive cost benefit to owning a self-propelled sprayer, there’s a growing trend to outfit those machines with two sets of tires.
"It was quite a play, but it was well worth it," says Mark Brown, who grows corn, soybeans and cotton on 6,000 acres in Lake Providence, La. He sprays weekly, totaling 30,000 to 35,000 acres over the course of a year.
"For years, I’ve been grieving over the ruts and the inability to go," Brown says. But with an upgrade to his RoGator 884—a $13,000 set of flotation tires, a 100' boom and an 800-gal. tank—he spends more time spraying and cuts compaction by 75%. Nine months out of the year, he runs 20.8"-wide tires, saving his 14.9" tires for August through October, when he sprays insecticide on soybeans and cotton.
Using multiple tire sizes for a single self-propelled sprayer is a growing trend to reduce compaction and spare crops. What’s more, it can give operators more time in the field under a variety of soil conditions.
"I would say it’s contagious," says Kevin Marshall, vice president of sales and marketing at Hagie Manufacturing. In general, farmers begin the year using a flotation tire for preplanting and pre-emergence spraying. They then have to decide which rim height makes sense. For example, Hagie offers rim heights of 38", 46" and 54".
Lighter ride. Comfort comes into play as well, says Jake Hatley, Pacific Northwest regional director for Equipment Technologies. One benefit of wider sprayer tires is fewer deep ruts to bounce over. Farmers in Hatley’s region are sticking with wider sprayer tires for about 80% of the year, he says, because they see crops bounce back even if they are run over, thanks to the low pounds per square inch.
Kevin Wagner bought his first selfpropelled Apache sprayer in 2006. He’s since tried multiple tire types on his 5,000-plus acres of small grains and edible beans on the Idaho-Washington border. In the fall, he began trying out a set of flotation tires.
"I think the flotation tire is going to be a better system, and it’s going to take less horsepower to run," Wagner says. Row-crop tires for sprayers are usually 14.9" wide, says James Crouch, Michelin’s North America farm segment marketing manager. Flotation tires are 20.4" to 35.4" wide. Farmers should choose tires based on factors such as field size and row width.
Application type appears to be a key factor for people ordering tires, says John Lipscomb, AGCO business development specialist. Between 75% and 80% of AGCO dry sprayers are sold with both flotation and row-crop tires. About 25% of all AGCO application equipment is ordered with both flotation tires and row-crop tires.
In December, Brown traded the sprayer he’s used for three seasons for a RoGator 900—but he wasn’t about to do it without two sets of tires. "It’s now part of the price of an efficient sprayer," he says.
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