Photo courtesy of Degenhardt Tire.
With so many things in farming that you can’t control—for example, weather, input costs, and commodity prices—it’s important to take charge of what you can. This is particularly true during make-or-break periods such as harvest. With today’s combines capable of carrying upwards of 25,000 pounds of weight, you’re asking a lot of their tires. Consequently, you’ll want to take steps to ensure they’re in top working condition before the big event to maximize productivity and avoid unplanned downtime.

Steeled for Stubble 

The high standability that prevents corn from simply snapping during weather events—like the recent derecho that impacted hundreds of thousands of corn acres in the Midwest—exacts a price from farmers in the form of tire damage caused by the sturdy stalks they leave behind. These stalks can wreak havoc on combines with a straddle-dual configuration, where the chopped rows pass in between the front tires and are run over by the rear tires. The best line of defense against these stout stalks is application-specific tires designed to stand up to them with features like special stubble-resistant rubber compounds and steel-belted construction.

Employ Stalk Stompers 

Another option available to farmers to ward off stubble damage is stalk stompers. An increasingly common sight on combines, stalk stompers flattens the spear-like stalks left behind and offer a low-cost option for increasing tire life. An added bonus of stalk stomping is that it also speeds up the decomposition of residue in the field (the robustness that makes for high-yielding crops also leads to stalks that are difficult and slow to break down).

Proper Inflation Pressure 

One of the best things you can do for the longevity of your tires, the performance of your combine, and the health of your soil is to inflate your tires to the proper air pressure. Familiarize yourself with the load and inflation tables of the tires on your equipment and adjust inflation pressure accordingly, keeping in mind the weight of fuel, header, and load. Other considerations include differing grain conditions—for example, wet corn or beans will weigh more than dry ones, and the use of bin extensions will significantly alter the weight of a combine.

Check Tires for Damage

Heading into the field with a damaged tire is a recipe for disaster and tire failures seem to occur at the worst possible times, like during a tight weather window. Taking the time to inspect a combine’s tires before harvest is a good way to avoid unforeseen downtime. A few things to check are:

  • Tread: Exposed cords or belts in the tread area are signs a tire is at the end of its life. Well-worn treads will also lead to more slippage, resulting in productivity losses and increased fuel costs.
  • Sidewall: Look for cracks, cuts, tears, or bubbles (radials are supposed bulge at their base), paying close attention to the bead area—heavy harvesting equipment, particularly machines that operate on slopes, exert a great deal of stress on that area.

Not sure where to start with your tire inspection? A good jumping-off point is to think of the tire problems you’ve experienced in the past and make sure they’re addressed before heading into harvest.

Tighten Lugs 

Before rolling out of the barn, dig out your combine’s owner manual and torque wrench and make sure your combine’s wheels are tightened to spec. Over- and under-tightened bolts can cause downtime, damaged equipment, and lead to injuries. Get in the habit of checking your lugs every 50 hours of use to keep everything running smoothly.

Harvesting Profits

The 2020 season is one few farmers will forget, for reasons both good and bad. Set yourself up for success this harvest by spending some time on your tires before leaving the equipment shed and reap some peace of mind and improved performance this year.

And, if you have questions about anything from the proper pressure for your combine tires to selecting a new set of Alliances for your rig, contact your local dealer or Alliance rep.

In the event that it’s time for new tires, Alliance offers a tremendous opportunity to outfit your combine with a tire that will meet your specific needs.

  • Alliance AgriFlex+ 372: VF tires, like our AgriFlex+ 372, can carry up to 40% more load than a standard radial tire at the same inflation pressure—making them ideal for hauling big harvests—or can be operated at 40% less inflation pressure than a conventional radial while carrying the same load for minimizing the impact on wet fields.
  • Alliance MultiStar 376: With radial construction for improved productivity, the 376 features our stubble-guard compound, steel-belted construction, and a large flat face for rolling over menacing stalks and improving longevity.
  • Alliance 360: The 360 radial combine tire’s ability to operate at low inflation pressures and produce a large, flat footprint make it a great choice for farmers looking to minimize soil compaction while hauling heavy loads.
  • Alliance 550 MultiUse: Farmers operating on the steep slopes of Western Washington have had great success outfitting their combines with the 550—finding the unique 550 delivers stability on sidehills and a comfortable ride on the road.