The Rise of Track Technology

December 12, 2015 02:15 AM

Field conditions, compaction concerns drive use of tracks on machinery

As farmers add acres to their oper-ations and battle Mother Nature, their equipment and technology needs down to the tires have to adjust. In past years, tire companies have focused on minimizing compaction by creating tires that can handle lower inflation pressures to expand their footprint.

“The amount of pressure we put on the ground is generally 1 lb. to 2 lb. above the inflation pressure of the tire,” says Wayne Birkenholz, Firestone Tires engineer. “When we reduce inflation pressure, we reduce soil contact pressure and compaction problems.”  

With rapid advances in tire technology, attention has shifted to track technology. In the past five years, many farmers have experienced weather extremes, from excessive rainfall during planting and harvest to one of the worst droughts in history. In order to  roll with Mother Nature’s punches and minimize downtime, the use of tracks has increased. 

“We currently have five sets of tracks on our equipment,” says John Hofmeister, who farms in the Mississippi River Bottoms near Warsaw, Ill. “We purchased tracks because of compaction issues due to pinch rows between the duals on our four-wheel-drive tractors.” 

To measure the benefit of tracks beyond getting farmers in the field quicker when it’s wet, Camoplast recently conducted studies to evaluate their overall benefit. In side-by-side field trials with Minnesota farmers, one set of equipment was outfitted with tracks, and the other side tested tires. The results showed a 5% yield increase using tracks. 

Depending on the size of your operation, tracks can considerably benefit your pocketbook, says Derek Bradon, marketing strategy and communications director for Camoplast.  

However, the “roading” capability of tracks might mean farmers have to travel at slower speeds when driving on paved roads than if they used conventional tires. 

“This is one area for improvement in track technology,” Bradon says. “However, we feel the benefits far outweigh the ‘roading’ disadvantages.” 

Mitas is taking strides to address roading issues with upcoming technology, the Mitas Pneutrac, a track that fits on a wheel. 

“When running tests, we have air pressure as low as 7 psi,” says Neil Rayson, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Mitas. “Under most conditions, if you get a puncture, you can still ride this home. It will run with absolutely no air in it.”

Although this technology is still in the works, Mitas’ goal is to provide the farmer with the entire package. 

“It has to road as well or better than a conventional tire if we are going to get the farmer the whole package,” Rayson adds.

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