“Soil compaction and damage can be alleviated by running tyres at lower pressures,” says Richard Hutchins.
Continental has released a range of new agricultural tyres to help reduce the impact of heavy machinery on the soil. The tyres contain two forms of new technology that Continental has applied to an agriculture tyre for the first time.
The first is N-Flex Technology. This patent pending, heat-treated nylon sits beneath the rubber to help the tyre return to its original shape following impacts and heavy use. Tractor tyres reach high temperatures during road use. When parked overnight the tyres cool to the shape of the parked position creating so called ‘flat spots’. When the tractor is used again the operator will experience ride disturbance because the tyres are not a perfect circle. N-Flex reduces the occurrence of flat spots and provides a more comfortable ride.
The added flexibility that N-Flex brings also enables the tyre to be run at lower pressures which helps to distribute the weight of the machine and reduce soil compaction.
Richard Hutchins, agricultural tyre specialist at Continental explains: “The correct pressure for tractor tyres is dependent on the load and speed required to carry out the required task. Not using the correct pressure is a major cause of soil compaction. It also damages the tyre, lowers work rates and increases fuel consumption. Tyre technology needs to continually develop to help farmers react to government pressures and environmental concerns about soil health. Continental has invested €2.5 million in an agriculture-focussed research and evaluation centre to develop tyres that help meet these concerns.”
The second technological development is fundamental to the construction of the tyre’s ‘bead’. This is the wire that helps the tyre hold the rim of the wheel. Many agricultural tyres use as many as ten individual wires to create one bead. However, multiple joins in the bead can cause weaknesses and there is a risk that the tyre can detach from the rim, especially at low pressures.
By using a single wire construction wrapped around the circumference of the tyre up to one hundred times, Continental has created an agricultural tyre that holds its shape, even when run at very low pressures.
Richard adds: “The bead is as important as the rubber and nylon in a tyre. Our research showed a more flexible tyre with a stronger single bead construction can be run at a lower pressure which helps to reduce soil compaction. Tyres with a single wire bead are safer and quicker to fit, hold the rim better and transfer torque more efficiently which reduces slippage, especially on wet ground. Most importantly the tyre will grip the rim even at very low pressures. This means farmers can further spread a machine’s weight and help protect the soil beneath.”
Continental has so far applied this technology to combine harvester tyres and tyres suitable for tractors in the up to 200hp sector. Currently tractor tyres are offered in 65, 70 and 85 series from 24 inches to 42 inches and combine harvester tyres are offered at 32 inches. Development of new agricultural tyres continues at its production facility in Lousado, Portugal, and larger tractor tyre sizes will be available before the end of 2019.