Tires Versus Tracks: The Compaction Angle


A wet harvest has led some Western Canadian farmers to make the switch from tires to tracks on combines, tractors and grain carts.

“The tracks are going to give you the decrease in slippage and a bit of extra floatation, and that’s what people are looking for right now,” notes Marla Riekman, soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Anything that prevents getting stuck is valuable in the short term, but what’s the longer term impact of switching to tracks? How do wheels and tracks compare when it comes to soil compaction and the impression they leave below the soil surface?

It turns out there’s not much difference, as long as your tires aren’t over-inflated, says Riekman.

compaction tracks vs tires“The reality is if your tires are properly inflated and you’re running duals or triples, you’re actually no better off,” she says, referring to research done at Ohio State University (see graph).

The width of the area making contact with the soil is factor to consider, with dual and triple tires spreading the weight over a wide path, as discussed in the video below.

Trucks with road tires at high pressures should be kept off the field where possible (that goes without saying for areas where wet conditions have forced producers to load trucks on the road this year.)

Individual axle loads should also be considered, notes Riekman, as most of the heaviest loads cross the field in fall. Compaction can be limited to the top 6-10 inches if kept below 10 tons, according to University of Minnesota (see the chart below.)


axle loads university of minnesota


*Editor’s note: The paragraph referencing the width of area making contact with soil was not in the original version of this post.

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