At Valley®, we get a lot of questions from growers about what they can do minimize wheel ruts from their irrigation equipment, or at least keep their pivots from getting stuck. It’s a simple question, but the answer is complicated!
So, let’s consider some of the factors that affect wheel tracking. These include soil type, crop, how many hours you irrigate per year, amount of water per pass, and your level of tolerance for wheel tracks. Because of all these variables, Valley offers a range of flotation solutions for pivots that cover nearly all situations, including everything from 14.9-24 and 11.2-38 Non-Directional and 18.4-26 Radial Tires, to 3-wheel base beams, track drives, and articulating drives.
With all these options, how do you choose? Start by talking with your local Valley dealer, visit with your neighbors to learn what works in your area, and consider the following examples to determine what is best for your particular situation.
"I can live with deep wheel tracks from my irrigation equipment...but I'm concerned about damaging my equipment."
Let’s say you can live with deep wheel tracks, but you don’t want your pivot to get stuck and don’t want a wide wheel track that could damage your harvesting equipment. In that case, an 11.2-38 tire is an excellent option. It keeps the base beam higher off the ground, giving you more rounds until the wheel track deepens. It also provides a few more inches of crop clearance.
"I'm OK now...but I'm concerned about getting stuck later in the season."
Maybe you just need to reduce the wheel track depth, so you don’t get stuck later in the season. In this instance, the Valley-exclusive Champion Hydro ND tire from Firestone is a great option. Unlike regular tractor tires, the Champion Hydro ND tires have a non-directional tread that provides excellent traction and keeps the mud in the wheel track, minimizing rut depth throughout the season. In addition, these tires use a special rubber compound to delay dry rot, so they last longer in the field.
"The majority of my field is OK...but I have a tough spot that I keep getting stuck in!"
If you need some additional traction to power your way through a tough spot in the field, a Valley 3-Wheel Base Beam is a great solution. The third center tire provides additional traction when you need it. It’s compatible with all of the tires Valley offers and can be used on standard and high-profile drive units. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, order your pivot with the base beam-only option. Then, if you need it later in the season, it’s simple to add the third gearbox and tire.
"The drive units on my corner are making deep wheel ruts...help!"
If your corner steerable drive units have problems with deep ruts, Valley recommends the 18.4R26 Radial tire. This tire can be inflated to only 10 psi, giving it a very large footprint and a low, 11 psi ground pressure that really helps eliminate ruts.
"I love my field to pieces...but, holy cow, it's hard to irrigate!"
Perhaps you have a really difficult field where you need maximum flotation and traction. In those situations, Valley suggests the Track Drive for most fields and the Articulating Track Drive or Articulating 4-Wheel Drivefor rough ground (such as when you have to cross a ditch).
“OK, but I’m tired of fixing flat tires, what about those steel and plastic wheels?”
Valley started with steel wheels on the old water drive machines and understands the problems associated with hard wheels, especially the lack of “give.” In light of these issues, there has been increasing interest among growers like you in airless tires for irrigation equipment.
The Valley Revolution™ Airless Tire features cutting-edge airless tire technology that will eliminate your problems with flats. Its well-proven aperture design is similar to tires used on forklifts. Unlike plastic tires that tend to slip on rocky ground and have poor self-cleaning, this compliant rubber tire provides cushioning over ridges and other field obstacles to prevent gearbox overloading, and it won’t slip on rocks or other hard objects.
Remember, the most important thing you can do to minimize ruts is to ensure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Too much pressure can cause deep ruts and shorten the life of the tire. Also, take a look at your tires at the end of the season, especially on pivots that are 8 to 10 years old. If there are deep cracks in the tire and you can see the white fabric plies at the bottom, it’s time to consider replacement. It will pay off next year with fewer flats and problems with your machine. Likewise, proper maintenance of the wheel track in the off season and packing the track at the start of the season are important to minimizing problems throughout the year.
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