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Harper Adams University research suggests running low pressure tyres can boost farmers’ yields

Posted 27 April

"When you think of it globally, it goes a very long way to help feed the world. Many people are worried about the sustainability of the human race, and if we could get these results for many different crops, it would make a huge impact in sustainability."

A tractor at work as part of the Traffic & Tillage experiment at HArper Adams University.

Photography credit: Jonathan Gill, Mechatronics and UAS Researcher at Harper Adams University.

An in-depth international study into the impact of traffic and tillage on soil compaction has found agricultural machinery running low pressure tyres could boost farmers’ yields by four per cent.

The study by Harper Adams University academics used one site at its campus in Newport as well as another site in the USA in conjunction with the University of Illinois, working with tractors fitted with low pressure Michelin tyres.

Senior Lecturer in Soil and Water Management at Harper Adams University, Dr Paula Misiewicz, said: “Agricultural vehicles have got heavier and heavier over recent years and the impact that has on the soil can be severe. The aim of our investigation has been to find ways of alleviating compaction.”

The study in Illinois was conducted over three years, using 290 hp tractors with Michelin Ultraflex Technology low pressure tyres and standard pressure tyres running in two fields.

Dr Misiewicz added: “The results we saw in Illinois showed quite clearly that Michelin Ultraflex Technology tyres can help farmers to significantly reduce compaction and, in the process, boost their yields by 4 per cent in comparison to standard tyres.”

The study on the Harper Adams campus – which ran for nine years - also compared the two Michelin standard and Ultraflex tyre set ups combined with controlled traffic farming together with zero tillage, shallow tillage and deep tillage techniques.

“While there were some benefits of using low pressure Ultraflex Technology tyres in all three systems over the nine years, it was with the deep tillage techniques where it really stood out. Here again we recorded around a 4 per cent yield improvement in comparison to conventional farm tyres,” said Dr Misiewicz

Visiting Professor at Harper Adams University, Professor Richard Goodwin, added: “Whilst that improvement might seem small, when you think of it globally, it goes a very long way to help feed the world. Many people are worried about the sustainability of the human race, and if we could get these results for many different crops, it would make a huge impact in sustainability.

“Our analysis found that the payback period is about a year. And so effectively, once you have paid for your tyres in year one, you’ve recovered your investment, and typically farmers would be running those tyres for another five years or more.”

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