Replacing agricultural tyres is a significant expense, whatever type of farm you run. That's why it is sometimes delayed as much as possible until there is considerable tyre wear, so as to extract every last ounce of value from them.
However, leaving it too long to change your tyres isn't always as profitable as you might think – in fact, using worn tractor tyres will significantly affect your farm's productivity.
Worn tyres are less effective at moving your tractor forward. This is because, when the lugs are worn down, your tractor tyres will have a lower tractive capacity and a higher degree of slip.
As a result you'll have to work for longer, which can add up to much more wasted time if you apply it across your entire farm. Your tractor will have to generate more power to combat slip, and your working times will increase accordingly. This also uses much more fuel.
Worn tyres have a detrimental effect on soil structure, because older tyres deform more. The ground is subjected to loads that are less well-distributed, and soil compaction is higher. The compaction caused by your worn tractor tyres means you'll have to do much more groundwork to aerate and loosen the soil. This extra time spent in the field translates to extra direct costs, especially in terms of fuel consumption.
Compaction reduces biological activity in the soil. That means you'll have to use more fertiliser to make up for the lack of nutrients normally produced by micro-organisms living in the soil.
Soil degradation has a serious negative impact on crop quality and yields. Numerous studies have shown that yields can be 10-30% lower in cases of excessive compaction depending on the soil type and crops. If you think about the total number of trips you make through the field (ploughing, sowing, treatment, harvesting etc.), your farming vehicles will drive over 70-100% of the cultivated ground, and therefore has a big impact on your harvest volumes. Your farm will therefore generate less revenue.
Not only that, but if you have a polyculture/livestock farm, having to offset poor yields by buying extra feed will reduce your profits even more.
In the special case of tubers (carrots, beetroot, etc.) where it's the root that's harvested, root development might be hampered if the soil is overly compacted, leading to deformed or misshapen produce. These products will be less valuable (as they will have to be sold at a discount).
In addition, poor water circulation in heavily compacted soil can lead to greater leaching of the inputs or agrochemical treatments you use. They will not work as effectively and this will lead to a drop in quality (too little nitrogen in the soil, crops lost to disease, etc.).
Worn tyres are more likely to trigger operational downtime, because they're more fragile. For example, they might be deformed and become dangerous in the event of an impact (risk of bursting). It's therefore much better to change your tyres in advance rather than find yourself stuck because of one of your tyres becomes unusable.
This is particularly important during intense periods of work, such as sowing or harvesting, which must be carried out in very specific and very short time frames. A breakdown at this time would cause yield loss, and consequently have an adverse impact on your farm's profits. For agricultural contractors, a breakdown will damage your reputation with clients.
The bottom line is, all of the extra costs (fuel, working hours, inputs) and losses (yield, crop value) attributable to the use of worn tyres will detract from, or even negate entirely, any savings you might have made by waiting to replace them.
To learn more and boost your farm's profits, Bridgestone Agriculture is offering you a free, detailed eBook that explains the essential role your agricultural tyres play in your productivity.
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This information is intended only to make you aware of the technical and functional aspects of agricultural tires and their use. It does not allow you to make a judgment or a definitive conclusion on a given problem. Only your agricultural tire expert is able to make a technical assessment and take a final decision, case by case.