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AGCO investigates how the path of tractor and planter tires influences crops

Penetrometer readings show how tractor and planter tires compact the soil.


Soil compaction when a planter passes.

AGCO Corporation, a world leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural machinery and solutions, has released the first 2020 Crop Tour field update.

Compacted soil at planting can reduce yields by restricting root growth and reducing nutrient and water availability. Soil compaction caused by wheeled traffic has become a growing concern among farmers, especially due to the weight on the transport wheels in the center of the large-capacity, central fill planters. Demonstrating how much compaction can occur, how it affects yield, and how to minimize compaction at planting are goals of the AGCO Crop Tour program in 2020.

AGCO agronomists will observe crop development and measure yield on Fendt Momentum Crop Tour plots across the Corn Belt this summer. In one of their first observations, agronomists used a soil penetrometer to measure compaction caused by the tractor / planter compared to compaction in areas where the planter was not working. Penetrometers measure resistance in pounds per square inch as the device is slowly pushed to the ground, simulating root penetrating the ground. The greater the resistance to the penetrometer, the more difficult it will be for the roots to grow and penetrate the soil. Readings were collected at five locations in Illinois, Ohio and South Dakota.
Soil penetrometers provide an indication of soil compaction by measuring the resistance of the soil to the probe in pounds per square inch as the probe is slowly pushed to the ground. The plotted points represent the average of 15 readings on each track across plots located in Chillicothe, OH; Gridley and Pontiac, IL; and two plots in Baltic, SD. The tractor-only tire track was made by the tractor's inner double wheel, while the tractor and planter track was made by the exterior double tractor followed by the tandem in-line transport wheels of a Fendt Momentum planter.

The plots were planted with a Fendt Momentum planter equipped with the Load Logic system to distribute the weight of the planter, seed, and liquid fertilizer to all planter tires to decrease load on central transport tires and reduce compaction near the central rows. The planter's in-line tandem transport wheels were equipped with very high flex tires and an automatic tire inflation system that constantly adjusts the PSI of the tires based on the weight of the planter to minimize pressure on the ground.

The table shows that the planter added little or no additional compaction to that caused by the tractor tires. Many studies have shown that the first step of the equipment, such as the planter tractor, produces most of the soil compaction that occurs.

"These initial results support our goal of not causing further compaction with the planter to give corn and soybean plants their best chance for optimum yields," says Jason Lee, AGCO agronomist and agricultural solutions specialist. "We will take plant measurements and manual harvest estimates as the season progresses, along with harvest yield results this fall, to tell the full story."

Previous research verifies loss of yield due to compaction at planting

The compaction yield losses created in the plantation due to the traffic between wheels from the tractor and the planter can be considerable. In 2011, Pioneer on-farm testing determined that the average corn yield of the rows planted by the outer wing sections of the planter was significantly higher than the performance of the rows planted by the center planter segment in nine of the 12 places. In fact, the rows planted by the outer wing segments produced an average of 11.3 bu / acre (709.24 kg / ha) more than the rows planted by the central section of the planter, due to tractor wheel traffic and the planter.

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