Today’s farm tires are under an all-out assault. For decades, crop stalks and stems have been growing in strength, as seed companies have bred plants for better standability and higher resistance to wind and insect damage.

But cut by a combine and angled correctly, each of these stalks can act as a razor-sharp spear, says Wayne Birkenholz, manager of field engineering for Firestone Ag Tires. And, as reduced-tillage practices become popular, more stubble is left in the field – which means more opportunities for tire damage.

Tire companies have fought back through the strength and design of their tires, Birkenholz says.

“Tire manufacturers walk a fine line,” Birkenholz adds. “If rubber is too soft, it’s vulnerable to puncture, but if it’s too hard, it’s vulnerable to cracking.”

Fortunately, you can fight back against stubble too. Birkenholz offers the following tips to protect your tires from stubble damage:

• Install stubble shoes or other similar devices on your combine header to flatten any stalks before they can hit your tires.

• Make an effort to drive between rows, and if making multiple passes with different implements, follow the same path each time, so you’re driving over pre-flattened stubble.

• You rotate the tires on your car so that they wear evenly – the same approach applies to four-wheel-drive tractors, which mount the same size tires on both axles. Back tires don’t suffer as much stubble damage as front tires, since they’re rolling over stubble that the front tires have already flattened. Rotating the tires that take the brunt of the stubble spreads out the damage.

• Rubber hardens with age. If you have a choice, run older tires in no-till fields – they’re harder and may be better able to resist the stubble. Conversely, avoid running recently manufactured or purchased tires in conditions likely to cause damage.