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Serving: IA

New Radial Tackles Large Equipment Challenge

Technology used in a new tired classification helps farmers operate big machinery with up to 30% less air pressure.

Farm tires are the foundation of every piece of rolling equipment on your farm. They're the only interface between machine and soil, and changes are happening in this segment of the market. The trend to replace bias ply tires with radials is advancing - especially for newer field machines. And there's been a move to go from radials to high-volume radials that allow bigger machines to run at lower tire pressures. Yet bigger machines keep pushing the limits of that technology.

That's where a new tire classification might help solve the problem.

The air pressure level at which a tire operates is about the same as the compaction amount on the ground. The lower the pressures, the greater reduction in compaction potential and large volume radial tires from major tire manufacturers have made a difference. These big, bottom-bulging tires have dropped the pressure to as low as 6 psi for some sized machines.

Yet equipment keeps getting bigger with operating weights as high as 60,000 pounds, and current-technology large-volume radials need higher pressures to carry those loads.

Adding a tire choice

A new tire designation - IF for "increased flexibility" - has entered the standard tire definitions approved by the voluntary Tire and Rim Assocation and its European counterpart. Michelin has been selling its Ultra Flex technology, which is the first tire to be marketed under this new IF designation.

BULGE BATTLE. Bigger bulges are common with radials but as shown here the increased flexibility IF tire designation - with the Michelin Ultra Flex tire on the left - does differ from the conventional large-volume radial (at right).

With this technology, farmers can operate big machinery with up to 30% less air pressure. This is a tire that offers a longer and wider foot print that may help reduce compaction, maintain good traction and increase floatation. "It gives a farmer the ability to get in and get work done more efficiently," says Kevin Lutz, agricultural technical manager, Michelin.

That IF designation is available to any radial tire maker that wants to meet the standard. "We went to the organization to get this designation," Lutz says. "There's a lot of technology that goes into that more flexible sidewall. This is a voluntary standards group and this is a new designation that any tire manufacturer can use - provided they have a tire that meets the standard."

One tractor that will use the new IF rubber from Michelin is the MT900B series high-horsepower wheeled tractors from Challenger. The 570 horsepower MT975B top end machine must weigh in above 57,000 pounds for proper operation and the new tires will allow it to operate with lower, less compacting tire pressures. This will be the first original equipment, or OE, use of the tire. Michelin will offer the IF designation later this year to its dealer organization.
You can learn more about the new tires at  

Key Points

  • New tire classification adds more tech for radials.
  • Reducing air pressure in tires cuts soil compaction.
  • Biggest machines benefit most from new technology.
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