This job sometimes forces me to travel overseas. It's a small burden I bear for you, dear reader, to learn more about farm technology and tools you can apply in your operation. This time it was a trip to France to check out tire technology, and to note a milestone at Michelin. It's been 10 years since the company premiered the UltraFlex technology that created a new tire classification with IF and VF part of the equipment lingo.
The high-flex sidewalls premiered by Michelin aim to allow you to run at lower tire pressures while having bigger equipment, and they showed us that technology while on the trip. When you lower the air pressure in the tire you lower the compaction of the equipment and lengthen the footprint of the tire for improved traction.
Of course those high-flex radials are pretty odd to look at, making the novice think at first glance that the tire needs more air. In fact, the tire can run with higher weights with up to 40% less air, or carry 40% more weight with the same air pressure. Either way there's a chance to reduce compaction and improve your machine.
All major ag tire manufacturers now offers some type of IF or VF tire in their line, providing you the ability to run a machine at a much lower tire pressure than in the past. Years ago, I worked with an ag engineer at Kansas State on this concept, and it was before those high-flex tires were in the market. The idea was that some tires could run at lower pressures and the benefits for compaction would be measurable.
With the added tech of high-flex tires, there are ways to make sprayers and tractors work better in the field. Michelin even introduced a new high-flex tire specifically for trailered implements like grain carts and manure hauling tools. They call it CargoXBib, and it's an upgrade from the CargoXBib that's been on the market (see related).
It was 10 years ago that Michelin launched UltraFlex with the Xeobib line, but the line has expanded with creation of larger tires with the same tech. In fact the company showed off a 50-inch SprayBib tire at the Farm Progress Show too. It provides the chance for bigger sprayers to provide lower compaction.
Of course, if you go with more flex on a sprayer, which is a machine that can move over the road, you'll risk handling issues. Michelin actually tested that issue having one of their "pilots" push a sprayer through a slalom at high speed and the tires flexed but held. The idea, of course, was to show how the sprayer handled in case you have to make a snap- turn to avoid a problem. It's not the normal way to operate a sprayer. You can watch my video of the experience below.
Technology comes in many forms, not all of them electronic. Tires are critical parts of most every machine on the farm and how you manage them can make a difference. High-flex tires are an advancement worth looking at if compaction is a worry.