Where Ag Tires Fear To Tread

Corn genetics and changing farm practices are to blame for cornstalks destroying agricultural tires. But there are some solutions.

Sudden downtime is the enemy of any productive farmer, and the sources of trouble these days aren’t just mechanical in nature. No-tillers are fighting a pitched battle with cornstalks that are eroding or puncturing tires on their tractors, combines, sprayers and other equipment.

It is possible to mitigate this expensive, time-wasting problem. And it’s probably a good idea for no-tillers to find solutions quickly.

Tire manufacturers are discussing the possibility of eliminating stubble-damage warranties — maybe within the next 5 years, says Scott Sloan, product engineering manager for Des Moines, Iowa-based Titan Tire Corp., which makes Goodyear-brand tires.

The main reason is cost, Sloan told attendees at the National No-Tillage Conference last January. He says it’s become expensive for manufacturers to warrant tires for damage that, theoretically, could be prevented.

If stubble warranties disappear, he predicts damage complaints will subside, too, because growers will be forced to find solutions instead of relying on warranty coverage.

“Growers are extremely creative and innovative,” Sloan says. “They are geniuses on making stuff work, and think if they had the opportunity and need, they could come up with a method to help themselves.”

Jagged Stalks A Problem

Thick stands of jagged cornstalks left in no-till fields have many potential causes.

Sloan says the number of corn genetic patents has exploded in the past 15 years. The characteristics of these improved hybrids has been difficult for tire manufacturers to combat. Many growers say Bt cornstalks break down slowly.

Weather conditions can also affect the ability…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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