Sally Brodbeck and Jon Casner want to change the way you think about tire inflation. They are the sole distributors of an automatic tire inflation system made by PTG of Germany. The system lets you change air pressure in your tires from the cab in approximately five minutes. An onboard air compressor and dual lines deliver air to the tires.
The product has been used in Europe since it was invented 15 years ago. It can be found on such brand names as Fendt tractors and Claas forage harvesters. In the U.S., it often is used in military and forestry applications, but not in agriculture because farmers haven’t seen the need.
“Most farmers today come from an era when tires were cheap and fuel was cheap,” says Casner, who markets the inflation system under the name Inflation Solutions LLC. “Few cared about tire performance. Just make them round and go. Usually tires were last on the list of priorities.”
Rules of the road
Different conditions require different tire pressure settings to ensure optimal performance, experts say. Optimal settings depend on travel speed, ground conditions, tire size, and weight of the tractor and implement. For example, higher inflation pressures, around 20 psi, are typically needed for road transport to keep tires performing their best while transporting loads at higher travel speeds. Lower pressures, around 10 psi, are required for the field to create a bigger footprint that helps with flotation and traction.
The problem, Casner explains, is that most farmers use the higher pressure needed for the road as the default, and don’t lower the pressure when they get to the field because it takes too long to change.
“Changing tire pressures (without the system) more than once a day just isn’t practical,” Casner says. “It can take 20 to 40 minutes to go around a tractor and change tire pressures. Most farmers aren’t going to do that. The onboard inflation system adjusts inflation pressures automatically in four to eight minutes.”
The automatic tire inflation system is being offered at a time when U.S. farmers are beginning to see the need for it. Casner says in the last five to seven years, tire prices have increased by 300%, making tire longevity important. Plus, more is being learned about soil compaction and how it can lower crop yield.
Since 2011, when the PTG system was first installed and tested on a tractor and planter in Iowa, about 20 farmers have purchased the product. Brodbeck says they have been able to recoup their investment within the first few years due to the bounceback in yields where the wheels had run. She and Casner have charts showing the returns.
Jodi DeJong-Hughes, a University of Minnesota Extension educator, is using some of Brodbeck’s units in a multi-year, multi-farmer study measuring the soil, yield and fuel returns on running properly inflated tires.
Jack Wiley, a retired John Deere engineer who consults on the topic of tire technology, is a big advocate of PTG’s tire inflation system because of the advantages it offers farmers. “The biggest ROI (return on investment) of the system is controlling soil compaction, followed by quickly controlling power hop if that should occur,” he says. “Those are the two functions for Midwest row-crop farms.”
The system includes an onboard air compressor, two air-delivery lines, wheel check valves, cab monitor and rotary unions. Suggested list price ranges from $10,000 to $20,000, depending on the size of the air compressor and the number of axles and tires outfitted. Farmers who want to use their own planter compressor can buy an analog system (without a compressor) for less than $5,000.
Contact Sally Brodbeck, Precision Inflation LLC, 1025 S. Willow Circle, West Des Moines, IA 50266, at 515-707-0903 or [email protected] , or visit precisioninflation.com ; or Jon Casner, Inflation Solutions LLC, 5190 Casstown Sidney Road, Fletcher, OH 45326, at 937-570-2629 or [email protected] .