Stubble damage is a growing challenge for farm tires as seed companies breed crops for improved yield and standability. This results in stiffer, stronger stalks and stubble that can do significant damage to tread rubber and sidewalls.
While no tire can completely eliminate stubble damage, there are several approaches you can take to help reduce it.
1. Invest in stalk stompers
The first step doesn’t involve tires at all. Invest in stalk stompers or rollers, which are attachments that knock over stubble ahead of your combine or tractor tires.
“The cost of a set of those shoes or sleds to mash down residue is less than the cost of replacing a set of premium farm tires,” says Blaine Cox from Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America, Inc.
“It’s worth an hour or two of installation time to prevent having to stop to wait on the local service truck to arrive and fix the flat to get you moving again.”
2. Time your purchase
Install new tires at the end of the season – not at the beginning.
“If your operation is planning to install new tires on equipment, I suggest installing them after the planting or harvest season,” says Brad Harris from Firestone. “Giving tires extra time to sit before use allows the processing waxes to migrate to the exterior of the tire. As these waxes move, a tire will slightly harden by 1 or 2 points.”
The hardness ranges on farm tires from 66 to 74 units. With a durometer, Firestone has measured crop stubble in the field with a hardness rating between 80 to 110 units.
3. Look for stubble-resistant compound tires
Tire manufacturers continue to refine the ingredients used in farm tires to build more stubble-resistant compounds.
“Over the past decade or so, the industry has fine-tuned the use of natural and synthetic rubber, elastomers, coupling agents, and other ingredients to create compound blends that are more puncture resistant than ever before,” explains Cox. “The chemical composition of the sidewall rubber and tread rubber are different, and both are uniquely blended to ensure both flexibility and durability. This adds some cost but saves dramatically on repairs and downtime.”
4. Run correct air pressure
Start by ensuring the tractor is ballasted properly and then adjust the inflation pressure following the manufacturer’s recommendation for each tire size and load.
5. Mount tires properly
Avoid the old habit of mounting your rear combine tires backwards. While that was originally done for a smoother ride, it can accelerate stubble damage.
“The curved lugs of a combine or tractor tire, oriented correctly, are designed to guide stubble from the centerline of the tire to the outside, minimizing damage,” explains Cox. “If you turn that lug around, you’re capturing stubble from the entire footprint of your tire and channeling it to the center. That will cause a tremendous amount of damage to the lugs, especially at the center, and increase the risk that you’re going to get a puncture.”
6. Follow the rows
When possible in row crops, work within the rows to help ensure that the lugs are not in contact with the stems. Norberto Herbener, Trelleborg Wheel Systems, also recommends choosing the thinnest tire possible (580 vs. 620 or 520 vs. 580) to reduce sidewall damage.
If you do end up with stubble damage, your tires can likely remain in service unless the tire’s body ply or tread ply cords are exposed, adds Harris.
Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared in AG Tire Talk to provide answers that farm equipment dealers have about farm tire technology. This series features a trending question followed by an abridged version of the answers. For the complete answers, check out agtiretalk.com.