David Graden: Operational Market Manager – Agriculture
Precision Ag is very basically defined as satellite farming. It is the use of GPS and satellite imagery to manage machine routes, observe and treat crop problem areas, build crop and yield maps, and so much more.
Within Michelin Agriculture, I like to use these precision tools to prove tire value, conduct in-depth testing over long periods of time, and track machine operator habits.
From a tire value standpoint, I have successfully used downward force maps from high speed planters with overlaid yield maps. In the image shown here, this farmer allowed cattle to graze his fields in early spring every year. We discussed the potential issues surrounding the soil compaction impact, caused by cattle, can have on his overall yield. We blocked off one of his 4 fields from the cattle, measured the downward force it takes to plant the seed, then at the end of the season, we captured and overlaid yield maps. With this information, I was able to show the affect of about 9% yield gain as a result of less soil compaction. Additionally, this opened up a discussion regarding a test conducted by University of Illinois, where they were able to prove a 4.3% corn yield gain, using Michelin Ultraflex (VF) tires vs standard tires.
Regarding tire testing and machine operator habits, we often tie Michelin GPS equipment into the machine’s precision systems. This enables us to gather road speed and distances, field speed and distances, pitch and sway of the machine, stopping points, etc. With this information, we are able to research and create a value proposition, which is the starting point for Michelin to not only build new products, but also provide the very best tire for the application. Additionally, we can utilize this information when resolving tire issues and customer concerns.
Finally, as central tire inflation systems continue to grow in popularity here in North America, I see nothing but upward momentum. Precision Ag systems can feed an incredible amount of data, that will not only drive the machine, but the artificial intelligence required to run all aspects for total efficiency in machine operation in all seasons. With the late 2017 acquisitions of two tire inflation system companies, PTG and Telefow, Michelin has already realized and is rapidly preparing for this future.
Precision Inflation, LLC
Ken Brodbeck, VP of Technology
Today’s farm equipment utilizes GPS, variable rate planters, sprayers with individual row/section shut offs and self-adjusting combines.
Tires are now coming into the 21st century with variable technology to match.
Consider your new car or pickup. Chances are they have a tire pressure monitoring device on your digital display. They even tell you which tire is low. Mine came on yesterday morning with the first frost.
Does your 8 tire $500,000 tractor tell you the tire pressure, individually? Probably not.
What if we not only could check tire pressure, but automatically ADJUST the pressures for axle load, field vs. transport speeds and horsepower going through each tire?
This is where the industry is headed.
Today, Precision Inflation’s tire inflation systems require the operator to change tire pressures with the touch of a button.
In the future, the tractor will sense the load on the axle and change tire pressure automatically. Ditto for field versus road pressure. Lower for the field and higher for the road.
Michelin’s EvoBib tire is “Air System Ready” and specifically designed to change shape from the optimum lower field pressure to the higher road pressure.
Trelleborg is working on a combine tire system that adds pressure to the tire as the grain tank fills and releases air when the grain tank empties keeping the tire at its maximum footprint for best flotation and minimizing soil compaction.
Today, tires must be inflated for the worst-case condition which is usually transport speeds and loads. But what if the machine is carrying only half of the maximum weight. Think grain cart, sprayer, planter or combine. In these conditions, the tires are over inflated for the load on the tire. What if the tire/machine can sense the tire has only 50 or 70% of the maximum load? The pressure can be reduced to match the actual load or speed the tire is experiencing. Thus, optimizing the tire’s performance for traction, flotation, wear and fuel economy!
Today, the machine operator must know the load and speed for the tire to set the proper inflation pressure. Soon, we will have SMART tires and machines that talk to each other and then adjust tire pressure for specific conditions rather than the maximum pressure for the heaviest load and highest speed. No driver input required!
Alliance Tire Americas
Nick Phillippi: National Product Manager
Precision agriculture is all about using data to achieve exactness—it’s really focused on optimizing all the inputs possible to optimize yield. As a tire manufacturer, we utilize an extraordinary amount of precision in designing, engineering, creating and testing our tires. But once they’re in the field, the only variable farmers can really optimize on their tires is inflation pressure.
Fortunately, central tire inflation system (CTIS) technology helps tires become more of a precision input, because operating tires at the proper inflation pressure reduces soil compaction and improves traction, fuel economy, slip, rolling resistance and tire life. The ability to adjust inflation pressure from the cab is as big a revolution as the ability to adjust fertilizer rates or seed population on the go—and like those agronomic adjustments, reducing soil compaction by being able to lowering inflation pressure in the field can have a direct impact on yield potential and the bottom line.
There’s also a less-direct connection between precision agriculture and tires. If we can get access to the amazing stream of data being collected by today’s equipment, it could help us further improve tire design. Connecting inflation pressure data from a TPMS chip and correlating it with the data on slip and speed from a tractor, we could collect a massive volume of valuable, straight-from-the-field insight into tire performance. With that insight, we could build and test new designs with different variables and make the best real-world decisions.
Alliance has always worked closely with OEMs to develop new tires that help the machinery companies put their innovations into the field. Onboard data—the Big Data people talk about when they discuss precision agriculture—would help us be an even more effective partner with those OEMs.
Of course, just like farmers choose the right hybrids for a field and the precise fertilizer rates to maximize their yield potential, they can also choose the right tires for their operation. Selecting a tread design, ply rating/load index, construction—is this a good application for VF technology?—and size can have significant impacts on how the tires, the machinery and even the crops themselves perform. Factors can include soil types, whether fields tend to be wet or dry when the equipment would be in use, how much roading the machinery does, load, and other variables. Providing farmers with good choices is the driving force behind Alliance’s Whole Farm concept—we’ve developed low-inflation, low-compaction options for just about every wheel on the farm.
CEAT Specialty Tires Inc.
Jim Enyart: Technical Manager
Precision Ag encompasses the utilization of the latest technologies to maximize production on individual fields. There are many components that contribute to maximizing production as well as returns.
We start by reviewing each fields’ production history including yields, quality as well as weed and disease problems. Previous soil fertility information along with fertilizer applications and herbicide programs and efficacy need to be considered. Crop rotation, projected market prices or contracts, pH, soil fertility, previous weed and disease pressure are the main components to evaluate to make the best planting decisions. After you have identified the crop you are going to plant you need to select the specific variety that works best for your conditions. You need to maximize production as well as evaluate what GMO traits are available and desired to produce the best crop possible.
After all the preparation work, you need to prepare for planting. Global Positioning Systems should be incorporated for all equipment operated in your fields. When using this guidance technology you are able to increase efficiency by eliminating overlaps with tillage, fertilizer, herbicide and fungicide applications. You are able to get uniform row spacing as well as improved plant spacing that is key to maximizing yields. Soil sampling in a grid pattern so soil amendments as well as fertilizers can be applied as required in each grid to adjust the pH and fertility of the entire field to the same levels as much as possible. This is followed by GPS guided planting tractors that are dropping the appropriate number of seeds to that same grid pattern based on each grids’ yield potential. Scheduling in-season fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide and fungicide applications based on tissue testing, field scouting, and pest pressures are key to maximizing quality and yields while minimizing extra input costs. Incorporating yield monitors during harvest is critical to Precision Ag production efforts because you can record the yield consistency or inconsistency that you have achieved as a result of all of your efforts.
The need to maximize production and returns on each acre planted include all the Precision Ag tools and should include your Ag tire buying decisions. Soil compaction has detrimental effects on crop yields and needs to be managed as well as possible. The latest tire technologies include radial constructed tires as well as “IF”, “VF” and “IF CFO” advancements. All of these technologies enable a farmer to reduce compaction compared to bias constructed tires. The weight the tires carry is distributed over a larger footprint and has much more even weight distribution. Inflation pressures may also be reduced while carrying equivalent loads when the “IF” or increased deflection as well as the “VF” or very high deflection tires are incorporated into your Ag tire program. If you can decrease inflation pressures you are decreasing the compaction primarily by increasing the tire footprint. With these advanced technologies, you are also increasing traction compared to the bias construction tires. Increasing traction increases efficiency and also decreases compaction by reducing tire slip.
Do not forget to include the latest technological advancements in Ag tire design when you are making buying decisions for your farmers or for your farming operation.
BKT USA, Inc.
Dave Paulk: Manager Field Technical Services
Precision agriculture is the application of using the right amount of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides at the right time to increase crop yields and protect the land. These practices can reduce the amount of each used and ensure that it is put in the right spots in a field to maximize yields. Farmers can gain a better return on their investment by saving on fuel, water, fertilizer, and pesticide costs.
Environmental concerns are also impacted by Precision Agricultural practices. Using the right amount of chemicals and fertilizer at the right times and in the right places helps crops grow better and healthier with better yields and reduces soil and groundwater pollution.
Precision Agriculture has been enhanced by using GPS and sensors to help find the right mix to get the most yield per acre of land. Emerging technologies include robots, self-driving/steering tractors, drones and satellite imagery, smartphone applications, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT consists of technologies for farm management software, animal welfare, and tracking almost anything related to helping on the farm.
At the onset, Precision Agriculture was very expensive and used only by larger farms. By nature, farms are land and labor intensive. Some of the costs of using Precision Ag have been driven down by using high-speed internet, mobile devices, and equipment designed for this by the tractor manufacturers. This has made using Precision Ag practices somewhat more affordable to smaller farms.
The agricultural tires chosen to use in conjunction with these above-mentioned applications can be important. By maintaining correct air pressures for the equipment used can decrease soil compaction and help increase yields. Soil compaction decreases the efficiency of water and nutrient absorption to the roots of the plant. Soil compaction also limits root growth and decreases yields. By managing soil compaction, the practices of Precision Agriculture and no till farming can be greatly enhanced by decreasing runoff.
IF and VF technologies used in agricultural tires can help with managing soil compaction. Pressure exerted by a tire on the soil is approximately two (2) pounds per square inch greater than the tire inflation pressure. If inflation pressure in a tire can be dropped and still carry the required weight of the tractor or implement, ground bearing pressure and soil compaction are reduced. When air pressures can be dropped, the tire flexes across a larger area and is able to spread the weight it is carrying more evenly.
An IF tire is designed to carry 20% more weight at the same air pressure as a standard tire. If air pressure can be dropped 20% and still carry the required weight, this would lessen the impact on the soil. BKT makes the Agrimax Force, some sizes in the Agrimax Teris, and radial implement tires in IF sizes.
A VF tire is designed to carry 40% more weight at the same air pressure as a standard tire. In this case, air pressure could be dropped 40% and carry the same weight as a standard tire. Some VF tires have been made for sprayers and implements where the weight carrying capacity is needed, and air pressures have not been able to be reduced. These include the Spargo for sprayers and some AW711 sizes for implements. BKT has designed a VF tire, the V-Flecto, for agricultural applications where the air pressures can be reduced to take advantage of this technology.
Most large farms now use radial agricultural tires, but there are still a lot of bias tires used in the U.S. When shopping for tires with soil compaction and Precision Ag concerns at the forefront, radial tires are the way to go. Radials are designed to run at lower air pressures, where bias tires are not. Radials are designed to carry more weight and run at faster speeds. Radial ag tires compliment Precision Ag practices much better than bias Ag tires.
As agricultural equipment gets heavier and faster, tire technology must also improve to keep up with these advancements. The future will see more VF technology tires in a wide array of sizes and for a variety of applications. As farmers look for ways to decrease operating costs and improve profits, they will also have to look for ways to improve and protect their land. Tires can be viewed as another cost of doing business, or as an investment to help them reach their goals. With the right tires and good tire management, they become an investment to improve profits.
It is expected that by 2050, the world’s population will increase by 34% (to about 9.6 billion people) and food production levels will have to double to feed to feed everyone. It is important to start effective Precision Ag practices now in order to be able to sustain this goal.
Trelleborg Wheel Systems
Norberto Herbener: OE Applications Engineer
Precision Ag is the adoption of technology that increases the accuracy and reduces input needs. Basically, its objective is to increase the margin by increasing the yield and reducing the need for inputs. We can mention for example the use of less chemicals, faster tillage with less fuel usage, less compaction for better yields, input and yield monitoring. Tires have influence on several of these aspects as they are the link between the power of the equipment and how it’s transmitted to the ground. The correct setup of the equipment includes to setup correctly the inflation pressure of the tires. This process is mandated by the type of tire technology or where it will be working, the load that the tire must carry and at what speed this load will be carried.
The equipment manufacturer only releases tire sizes and configurations that “fit” to their products. If the equipment is correctly ballasted, the first step to adjust the tire inflation pressure is to weight the unit to the maximum load each tire must carry and at the desired speed. Using the tire manufacturer manuals, we can extrapolate the correct inflation pressure for the tire with the load and speed data. This optimal inflation pressure will adjust the tire to supply to the largest footprint possible, reduce soil compaction (increase yield) and increase grip with lower slippage (reduce working speed time and fuel consumption). Thus, you’ll improve driver’s comfort, tire performance and durability.
Following the idea that the tires need the correct inflation pressure to deliver their peak performance, several equipment manufacturers have been developing, testing and incorporating systems to monitor the inflation pressure in the tires (similar to cars) and displaying it on their monitors. This technology will be combined soon with tire self-inflating/deflating system to adjust to load and speed changes.
Using the tire at its optimal performance (with the correct inflation pressure) will assure that the tire will wear evenly and long lasting as the designed of tread life. Each tire manufacturer has developed and uses different rubber compounds in order to deliver the long-lasting peak performance. Each different rubber compound has its own “recipe” designed for a specific function and use. For example, a sidewall compound must be very flexible but dense, as the tread compound is stiffer and more heat resistant. This is a big differentiator between quality among the manufacturers (who performs better and last longer), and how they stand behind their products with support (warranty) and services.
In the last few years, the trend has been for the equipment manufacturers to develop larger units (heavier and bigger) equipped with more monitoring and adjusting capabilities. Following this trend, the tire manufacturers have been stepping up to the plate by offering tires with higher Load Capacities (LI), and specific tread designs for different applications. In addition to having features such as CHO-CFO for harvesting, IF-VF technology to increase load or reduce inflation pressure, larger sizes and new compounds have been developed to address the needs and demands of farming operation for a tire with flexibility and durability. Tire development is constantly evolving, and the industry is always incorporating new products to the market.
Titan International, Inc. (Manufacturer of Titan and Goodyear Farm Tires)
Scott Sloan: Ag Product Manager / Global LSW
I define Precision Ag as a farming management system based on the observation, measuring and responding to the constant variability of the soils and crops to optimize the efficiency of inputs like seed, herbicides and fertilizers to optimize crop yields which will optimize the returns on those crops produced.
Tires have always interacted with each facet of agriculture from spring tillage, spraying and planting to summer side dressing applications to combine, auger carts and tractors to fall tillage. Each time a piece of equipment rolls across a field it is having a major impact on the soil in those areas and that is compaction. Growers have been concerned with compaction issues long before GPS and the term Precision Farming came around. So to me the tire industry has been keeping pace with the ever changing and wide variety of agricultural practices.
The major changes we have seen in the market is the sheer size of the tires themselves. Back in the late 80’s early 90’s the standard tire on a 4WD tractor was a 480/80R42 then moved to the 480/80R46. At that time one of the largest tires was the 710/70R38. Fast forward to today, a 480/80R50 is the standard rear tire on a MFWD and we are putting on LSW1400/30R46 which is currently the world’s largest Ag tire on 4WD tractors. The common theme being that as equipment has gotten larger and the capacity of the tires have needed to increase. There are two ways to minimize ground bearing pressure which equates to compaction, and that is to physically increase the size of the tire itself or increase the size of the actual footprint on existing sizes. This is done by decreasing the inflation pressures of the current tires and in affect increasing the footprint distributing the load across a larger area decreasing the pounds per square inch (PSI) affecting the ground underneath and in turn reducing soil compaction.
There are many things a grower can do, for instance, IF (Increased Flexion) and VF (Very High Flexion) technology has been around for almost 15 years. This technology allows you to reduce inflation pressures by 20% on the IF, and 40% on the VF which allows the tire to deflect more which increases the footprint area, with new equipment beginning to adapt.
LSW super single tires are also showing up on new equipment, with the tire not only substantially larger in size, but also incorporating VF technology, allowing the grower to gain an advantage for compaction just by bolting the assemblies on the machine by 20% and more.
Bottom line is that a grower can substantially reduce the effects of compaction just by understanding load and inflation when it comes to tires. Many are surprised as to how low they could be running the tires on their equipment if they would just take the time. Many growers just look at the sidewall of a tire and see that the tires max inflation is (example 1) 23 psi. In this case the tire could carry 7,600 lbs. However, what they don’t understand is if they run 23psi and only carrying 4080 lbs. they would lose almost 50% of their footprint. To carry the 4080 lbs. they would only need to run 9 psi.
Growers are not the only ones with little knowledge of this concept. Many implement dealers, even larger ones that do have Precision Technicians know relatively little about load and inflation and almost nothing of IF and VF technology, yet the tires are a large factor in the precision farming arena whether they realize it or not.
Titan is very aware of this issue and holds the annual Titan University for that very reason in which we bring in not only growers and tire dealers but implement dealers as well. They get a 2 day crash course on tires and tire technology so they feel more comfortable and understand how to optimize the performance of the machine and minimize impact on the soil. They soon realize there are many things they can do without spending a lot of money to improve their productivity and profitability.
Continental Agriculture North America
Harm-Hendrik Lange: Agriculture Tires Field Engineer
Precision AG has developed into a very wide field. In the beginning, it started with GPS steering systems and measuring and mapping yields, and it has become more and more complex over the past 20 years. Furthermore, fleet management systems have joined Precision AG solutions, so not only is data collected about yield, fertilizer, seeds, and pesticide optimization, but many machine parameters can also be monitored. Fuel levels, fuel consumption per time/acre and even data which can lead to machine downtime (such as temperature, oil pressure, oil level and failure codes) can be analyzed by farmers, fleet owners or machine service partners. The possibility of solutions seems nearly endless, so it´s difficult to describe them all in detail.
Looking at tires, two stages of development can be distinguished:
- Condition monitoring and corrective maintenance: tire maintenance and service checks (this is already quite common in the vehicle industry).
- The nearly endless field of possible intelligent solutions which improve productivity, efficiency and environmental protection for agricultural work.
For condition monitoring and corrective maintenance, Continental offers ContiPressureCheck as an aftermarket solution. This tire pressure monitoring system enables a single user to check and monitor tire inflation pressure and temperature either through an in-cab display or with a handheld tool. For a multi-vehicle solution, the ContiConnect platform can monitor an entire fleet of vehicles through the use of a yardreader. The ContiConnect platform has been very popular in truck and transportation businesses for years, and can also be used for agricultural tires.
For Precision AG, there are multiple possibilities where intelligent tires can improve safety, productivity and protect the environment by reducing future impact to the soil. Many of those possibilities reach their full potential by working together with solutions offered from agricultural machinery original equipment manufacturers. Close partnerships between agricultural machinery OE´s, their parts suppliers and tire producers are needed to make the possibilities a reality. In the future, these technological partnerships could lead to:
- Optimal live tire pressure based on tire sensors and vehicle data (a tire inflation system is a pre-requisite).
- Sensing deflection and deformation of a tire carcass in all three directions to give important steering values for tire load detection (for example, checking the filling grade of the fertilizer), tire specific force/torque (for anti-slip-regulation or preventing tire-rim-slip) and side deflection to identify critical situations by using reduced tire inflation pressure on steep inclines (to indicate how much tire inflation pressure can be reduced for inclines without creating the risk of falling over).
- Measuring the tire contact patch to the soil online, to “feel” information about the soil condition that cannot be generated by an optical sensor (deformation, humidity). Then using this to adjust the tire to reach maximum performance and storing that information to yield maps.
These future technologies would ideally lead to fuel reduction, less soil compaction and better tire performance and lifetime. In addition, automation, digital solutions, secure data transfer, and efficiently managed material flows will enable operators of agricultural machinery and farms to individually configure their inventory and adapt it to meet their particular situations and needs. Agricultural enterprises will become state-of-the-art technology centers that promote efficient and sustainable production along the entire value chain. Continental’s cross-sector expertise assists in the further development of agricultural operations and providing new solutions, especially with reference to issues of relevance to the sector and its future, namely digitalization, connectivity and sustainability.
Maxam Tire International
Greg W. Gilland: Business Development & Ag Segment Manager
Precision agriculture is a management approach to farming operations based on measuring, observing and actively handling all the possible variables in crop farming. Much like the advent of VF Technology, precision agriculture is incorporating every facet of technology to revolutionize how agricultural equipment operates in the field to maximize the yield of crops to ensure greater grower profits.
Precision ag demands the complete integration of all the field and crop production intelligence to include crop yields, terrain features, topography, organic matter content, moisture levels, nitrogen levels, etc., that can be gathered. Precision is achieved through the use of vehicle onboard systems or satellite technology designed to influence, for example, how a tractor and planter combination plant a field, how a harvester adjusts its header height to harvest more crop or, lastly, how the sprayer is used in terms of the correct spray pattern of fertilizer or pesticide when spraying a field based on all the above inputs.
In many ways, tires are the last element to be incorporated into precision agriculture as it’s not an integral mechanical or electrical component of the ag platform but rather part of the vehicle chassis as a mounted component. The key to successful implementation of tire technology in the field to maximize yields or influence precision agriculture lies in the active adjustment of tire air pressure when dynamically operating in the field or on the road. The tire’s air pressure not only carries the machine load but influences the size of the tire footprint (length) which has a direct impact on the ground contact pressure resulting in greater or lower compaction, ultimately, dictating the crop yield and the grower’s profits.
For precision agriculture to truly meet the objective of improving grower’s yields, the equipment in operation would have to fully integrate every aspect of the machine’s operation to include the tire impact. For example, in the case of tractor-planter operation, not only the best pattern of seed injection or seed planting depth for a given field, but also the tire’s footprint through the field by dynamically adjusting the air pressure up or down as the tires roll carrying the combined load. The on-board ability to maximize the exact and precise air pressure needed to minimize ground pressure or compaction will deliver increased crop yields and would maximize the capability envisioned in precision agriculture.
As heavier ag equipment continues to be developed in the years to come, on-board active tire inflation and deflation systems will allow either standard or VF tires to deliver the right footprint for the right load and ensure that precision ag delivers the right profit for each grower. A secondary effect of being able to adjust air pressures as needed at any time, whether in the field or while roading the equipment from place to place, is the maximization of the tire’s wear or longevity. Ultimately, tires that are employed effectively in every operation will last longer reducing tire usage and reducing operating costs.
Active precision agriculture, capable of adjusting tire air pressure in any field or road operation, will demand tires that are engineered to maximize the footprint resulting in reduced compaction and greater crop yields. Future tire development is linked to VF Technology because of the flexibility in load carrying capacity or air pressure capability inherent in its carcass construction and rubber compounding. Hence, MAXAM has engineered the VF agricultural series to provide the agricultural industry with the best tire solution for minimizing soil compaction without compromising traction, with the AgriXtra N being the first of many VF tire lines introduced to the global agricultural market beginning in 2020.
All information is provided in this blog solely to provoke thought. All deductions made from information on this site must be confirmed by Certified Ag Tire Dealer before use. Ag Tire Talk does not recommend anyone conduct tire service work with exception of Certified Ag Tire Dealer Professionals.