Tyre maker Continental has teamed up with ADAS and John Deere to highlight ways technology can improve soil health.
Farming practices must change to protect the productivity of UK agriculture, says Continental tyre specialist Richard Hutchins, who has been working with David Purdy from John Deere and ADAS principal soil scientist John Williams.
Up to 30% of UK soils are said to be severely degraded – costing around £1bn annually. Degradation is linked to the loss of organic matter which accounts for 47% of the total cost, while compaction is 39%.
“Where soils have been placed in this category, there is very little porosity and the soil has become grey and compacted, making it difficult for crops to root and for the land to drain,” says Mr Williams.
Continental’s new research and development facility in Portugal is producing tyres to help offset potential damage from heavy machines. They include very high flexion (VF) tyres with a single bead wire that can be run at lower pressures.
VF tyres carry 40% more load than a standard tyre at the same pressure.
Alternatively, pressure of VF tyres can be lowered by 40% in the field compared to standard tyres, even when carrying the same load.
“This spreads the weight of the vehicle over a larger surface area and reduces soil compaction,” says Mr Hutchins. The weight of farm vehicles and the tyre pressures chosen are a major contributor to soil compaction.”
Increased axle weights, caused by heavy implements and more powerful machines, should be offset by tyres that can spread this weight. Damage to topsoil is caused by incorrect tyre inflation, while heavy axle loads causes subsoil compaction.
“Both should be addressed to minimise the impact farming has,” explains Mr Purdy.
Continental’s recently introduced ContiPressureCheck sensors monitors the pressure and temperature of tyres to provide the operator with the information to prevent tyre related issues such as underinflation or overloading.
For more on soil compaction, read about how to maximise soil potential.