Goodyear Semi Truck Tires, Degenhardt Tire Helps Growers See the Value in Proper Inflation-When Alton Degenhardt suggested lower inflation pressures of farm equipment tires would reduce soil compaction, his customers were skeptical.
“I had guys tell me it’s never going to work,” says Degenhardt, a third-generation member of the family that owns and operates Degenhardt Tire Inc. in western Wisconsin. “They would say, ‘I don’t know, this seems like a bunch of hocus-pocus.’”
The skeptics have since become believers thanks to technology that allows a tire to carry the same loads at lower inflation pressures or heavier loads at standard inflation pressures than a conventional bias or radial ag tire in the same size.
“Several guys told me they drove around with a full load of corn and beans trying to leave ruts in the field, and they couldn’t,” says Degenhardt. “They never thought that a few pounds of air would make such a difference. They are seeing that there is value in proper air inflation.”
Goodyear Semi Truck Tires
Degenhardt explains that an IF (increased flexion) tire is designed to carry the same load as a standard tire at 20% lower air pressure or carry 20% higher loads at the same air pressure. A VF (very high flexion) tire can carry the same load at 40% lower air pressure or carry 40% more load at identical pressure.
IF and VF technology dates back to the mid-2000s. Michelin was the first tire manufacturer to introduce high-flexing tires in North America with its AxioBib tire, according to David Graden, operational marketing manager-agriculture for Michelin North America Inc.
“Running at a lower air pressure reduces cost of production by improving traction and fuel economy while reducing slip and soil compaction,” says Graden. “Farm machinery has continued to get larger, helping farmers to be more efficient and productive. But with larger, heavier equipment has also come the risk of increased soil compaction which can significantly impact crop growth and yield performance.”
Graden says growers can take proactive steps to manage the risk by being aware of the factors that cause compaction and how to minimize it. “The primary cause is contact pressure, which is exerted by the pressure of tires on the soil surface. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of IF and VF tires that can operate at a lower air pressure under increased loads, compared to standard radial tire technology.”
Until a couple of years ago, growers were showing limited interest in IF and VF tires. Bill Haney, agricultural and industrial sales manager for Apollo Vredestein Tyres North America Inc., notes that IF tires require close monitoring of air pressure. “VF tires answered the requirement for higher load carrying capacity at more standard air pressures,” he says.
In addition, the initial technical specs for IF and VF tires called for wider rims, which made them expensive in the replacement market. “Since then the specifications in many cases changed to allow standard rims,” says Haney. “The point is that lower air pressures are possible in the field for use with ever increasing tractor horsepower and weight. Lower air pressures are the goal for reducing soil compaction. VF tires are a higher load version of the IF concept.”Focus on service
There are two Degenhardt Tire stores serving growers in Wisconsin. Reuben Degenhardt, Alton’s grandfather, opened a store in Norwalk in 1962. A store in West Salem, about 25 miles away, followed. Today Reuben’s sons, Jim and Pete, own the company. Jim is Alton’s father.
There are five employees, plus Alton Degenhardt’s mother, Roberta, his aunt, Nicki, and two cousins, Jordan and Zach. The retread shop, which has capacity for up to 100 tires a week, uses the Oliver process to retread skid steer and medium truck tires for agricultural use.
The two stores do not offer mechanical service and focus entirely on tires. “We’ll do anything from a 410/350×4 tire for a lawn cart all the way up to a 29.5/R25 OTR tire. And everything in between from tractors, combines, skids steers, and graders,” says Degenhardt.The company also offers mobile road service. Degenhardt’s uncle services the area around the Norwalk store, and Degenhardt covers a roughly 80-mile radius around the West Salem store. A typical day is spent on the road making service calls for customers. “I can change any tire on the road, but we cater to the farmers after hours for emergencies, especially during planting and harvesting.”
Local growers know that if they have an issue, they are not going to be down overnight waiting for a tire. “I’ve got pretty much any farm tire you could want on hand. Anything round and rubber, big and small, we’ve got it all,” says Degenhardt.
Pounds on the ground
Degenhardt is working closely with Patrick McHugh, a grower who is conducting a soil compaction study on his farm. Compaction interferes with a root’s ability to grow into the soil and extract the nutrients and moisture a plant needs. Roots and water cannot infiltrate compacted soil, creating problems for growers.
McHugh uses a device called a penetromete