Is stubble damage a problem? If you raise corn, soybeans or cotton, yes it is! Can it be managed? Well, you can do several things to help reduce tire damage but nobody can easily eliminate the problem.
Stubble damage has always been present but was not a big problem until the advent of GMO enhanced corn, soybean and cotton varieties. GMO enhancements have led to greatly improved yields due to disease and insect resistance, as well as reduced weed competition. The yield gain is mainly due to the improved overall health of the plants throughout the growing season. These “healthy” plants have much more structural integrity at harvest than in the past. That is due to genetically incorporated disease resistance that has greatly reduced disease infection and progression in these crops.
While GMO enhanced crops can delivered better yields, they can also inflict considerable damage to your tires.
Types of Stubble Damage
There are two types. The first is air chamber penetration. These penetrations can take you out of service very quickly. Your tire may be unrepairable if the penetrations are too high in number. Penetrations usually need immediate repair.
The second type (as seen in left photo) is compound removal from the tread face and sidewalls of your tires. Compound removal leaves your tires very ugly for quite some time before failure becomes eminent. This is usually a slow process and occurs over an extended period of time. The stubble chips away small pieces of rubber due to multiple stubble impacts to your tires. It’s like having a million starving chickens pecking your tires to death! This becomes a serious problem when cords become exposed. Exposed cords will cause your tires to fail. Predicting the time to failure is quite difficult but it will happen at the most inconvenient time!
How to Protect Your Tires
1. What can we do to protect our tires? The first thing a farmer should do is incorporate stubble manipulation via some type of stubble stomper on the combine. Ideally, the stubble should be tipped from an upright position. Subsequent field operations should avoid travel in the opposite direction of the combine to minimize damage.
2. Farmers should incorporate stubble resistant tires when feasible. When the stubble damage problem became apparent, many tire manufacturers were confident that this problem could be resolved with enhanced stubble resistant compounds. Manufacturers have a bit of a different tune these days!
There have been, however, many architectural adjustments to the tread and sidewall designs to reduce or avoid “catch points” where the stubble can get hung up and chew a hole in your tires.
3. Another option to consider is the cutting height of your crop . We tend to want to cut as close to the ground as we can, especially with silage corn. If you can leave your stalks taller, the potential for damaging impacts can be significantly reduced.
After you do everything you can and still have stubble damage, you are not alone. Do not pull your hair out, I did that, and it didn’t help!
4. If you work your stubble after harvest with a four-wheel drive tractor, you may want to rotate your tires from back to front since the front tires take the brunt of the damage. You can extend your tire life with a rotation but there are added costs.
5. Another possibility is a European type of tractor with a front mounted three -point hitch and power take off. If you can utilize this type of setup you may be able to run a flail out front when working your stubble after harvest.
As a last resort, you could plant only non-GMO varieties and get back to what was normal stubble damage of days gone by. The biggest problem with this is reduced yield potential. You would need a considerable premium to have any possibility of netting the same amount as with the higher yielding GMO’s. If your yields are high enough you may be able to overcome poor crop pricing but that is less likely with conventional varieties.
There is no such thing as stubble “PROOF” tires or tracks that are offered in today’s Ag market. Stubble “resistant” tires are offered but the resistance is relative. This means that some tire options are more susceptible or will incur more stubble damage that the resistant offering.
Stubble resistant tires should help but can you forget about stubble damage and sleep easy? Probably not! You need to learn how to live with stubble damage and manage it the best you can because this problem is not going away and time soon.
You could always go back to steel wheels. After all, steel wheels are quite stubble proof. The problem with steel wheels is most everything except stubble damage! Pneumatic tires, as well as the radial improvements, provide so many benefits to tractor performance and operational comforts that I don't see steel wheels making a comeback!
Please click on the banner below to learn more about how CEAT tires fight stubble damage, or feel free to ask me a question in the comments section below.