Stronger Bt corn stubble causes tire companies to reimagine their products
For every problem, there’s a solution. And sometimes, for every solution, there’s another problem
lurking. Such is the case with Bt corn stubble.
Bt corn delivers increasingly higher yields, improved standability and upward-trending plant populations. That has resulted in stronger, tougher stalks and more of them in the field.
"Bt corn is a problem," says Daryl Peterson. "In order to produce high standability, the penalty we pay is having very rigid stalks. It’s like a piece of rebar sticking up in the field. Plus, tires don’t straddle rows like they used to. Now, they’re running right over the rows. We’ve seen plenty of situations where tires couldn’t last a full season."
Peterson works for May Wes Manufacturing, which builds Stalk Stompers and other implements designed to protect farm equipment tires. Stalk Stompers attach to the combine header, pushing stubble to the ground before it punctures tires or causes uneven wear. They can be mounted on individual rows or suspended with a toolbar. A "quick disconnect" model literally installs in seconds, he adds.
"You’re talking about an investment that costs several hundred dollars but protects tires that cost several thousand dollars," he says.
Aside from these implements, ag tire manufacturers are getting creative to deliver tires with strength and flexibility.
"One of our goals has been just trying to educate growers," says Scott Sloan, product manager for Titan Tire Corporation. "For years, farmers have run over stubble with no problems, but not anymore."
Sloan says Goodyear Farm Tires, a Titan brand, gets many requests to make its compounds harder. While that helps to a point, he says, innovations in tire design are critical for success.
Titan’s Stubble Guard implement tire uses four thin layers of Kevlar, the same
material used in bulletproof vests, and eight layers of nylon in its design.
For example, Titan developed a Stubble Guard implement tire with four layers of Kevlar, the same material used to make bulletproof vests.
Titan also offers two Increased Flexion (IF) tire product lines, which allow a 20% higher load at the same inflation pressure as a standard radial, or the same load with 20% lower inflation pressure. Lower inflation is another combatant in the war against stubble damage, Sloan says. This is part
of a more holistic approach, including adding Stalk Stomper implements and changing behavior, such as driving between rows to limit contact.
Michelin took reduced inflation a step further with its YieldBib tire featuring Ultraflex technology. It’s the first standard-size Very-High Flexion (VF) option in tires for high-horsepower row-crop tractors designed to operate at up to 40% less air pressure than standard radials.
"Compaction is a big issue for us, and we like that low-pressure tire," says Arlyn Schipper, an Iowa farmer. "It goes back to dollars per acre. If we don’t have compaction, we get better yield. And the YieldBibs are durable. We have 6,000 hours on these, and they are not even half gone yet."