Viticulture is a very specialised form of agriculture. Grapevines are perennial plants that are planted in rows, meaning specially adapted agricultural tyres are required.
That is why, even though the selection criteria are very similar to tyres used for field crops or livestock, some other features specific to viticulture must also be taken into account.
The perennial nature of vines allows their root systems to develop more than annuals, which might lead you to believe that they are less sensitive to the effects of soil compaction. However, your vehicles will move through the vineyards many times (weed removal, phytosanitary treatments, grape harvesting, etc.), multiplying the risk of soil compaction by the tyres.
Moreover, some phytosanitary treatments, such as those to combat fungal diseases, are applied during wet periods when the soil is especially vulnerable.
This is why soil compaction in vineyards is becoming increasingly monitored and studied, because it impacts yields, grape quality and disease susceptibility. Aerated soil allows good water infiltration, decreases the risk of disease, increases biological activity, and allows good decomposition of plant residues.
If your soil is sensitive to compaction, you can choose to use bias ply tyres, which are more stable and resistant to damage and puncturing than radial designs. They will be better adapted to harsh terrain (containing stones and plant residues, for example) and slopes, as is often the case in viticulture.
That said, one disadvantage is that they cause greater soil compaction than a vineyard tyre, due to their low contact surface area with the ground. You must therefore be careful not to overload them (only use relatively lightweight tools) or to use them on high-clearance tractors whose wheels can go between rows, in order to minimise the footprint and their impact on the vines.
If your soil is susceptible to compaction, you should pay particular attention to the weight distribution of your equipment on the ground. Inter-row tools are a source of compaction because, despite their small size, the wheels pass very close to the grapevines and disturb their root systems.
Use of the vineyard tyre
High-clearance tools, on the other hand, are heavier machines. They are usually equipped with narrow, large diameter tyres so they can drive between the vines and pass over the rows without damaging the plants. Their contact surface area with the ground is relatively small, and their weight is concentrated on the wheels. Their narrow nature means tractive force is transferred less effectively and there's more slip, leading to an increased risk of soil compaction by smoothing.
As a result, low-pressure vineyard tyres are becoming a popular choice. Their high deformation capacity enables better weight distribution on the ground.
Whatever type of equipment you have, you should pay attention to the diameter of your tyres to make sure you're not damaging your grapevines. Their profile should also be suited to the traction capacity of the agricultural machine they're equipped to.
Getting the right pressure in a low-pressure vineyard tyre also helps prevent soil erosion, which is a common problem in vineyards. The majority of vineyards are sloped, and some can be very steep (inclines of over 30% are common), which translates to a higher risk of erosion.
The tractor tyre that's designed to reduce compaction will decrease the depth of ruts caused by vehicles, encouraging rainwater run-off.
In parallel to using suitable tyres, specific farming practices can also help you preserve your soil.
For example, planting inter-row ground cover reduces erosion and compaction thanks to the root networks of the covering plants.
You can also work the soil to aerate it and improve its structure.
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.