Tracks vs.Tires: The Compaction Debate

As technology and equipment size continues to increase, the need for compatible force across the ground persists. Farmer’s want to protect the soil and the assets it holds. Compaction can cause unnecessary soil degradation. The soil aggregates or particles are crushed which reduces pore space for infiltration of water, air, drainage and nutrients. Soil compaction is affected by the repeated passes in the field that a tractor, combine, or other implement can make. These can cause intensive harm to the root zone for the crop.When the soil is tilled, there is the potential of reducing protective residues, depending on type of tillage performed. Many farmers are trying to limit compaction by transferring to the use of tracked equipment in their operations. Sustainability of the soil for the future generations is an important aspect to the farm to survive and that is why farmer’s are looking for advancements.

Arends-Awe, Inc. Equipment                                                Pieced together by Katie Boston

Track Advantages

  • Better quality flotation over the soil
  • Decreased power hop
  • Easier for implement hook-up
  • Compaction zone is spread over a zone and less point pressure occurs

Track Disadvantages

  • Reduced steering control with heavier loads
  • Rough ride or vibration on hard surfaces (roadways)
  • Build up of soil within the track which could cause damage to inner parts
  • High purchase and repair price

“When it comes to cost, the addition of tracks on wheeled combine has a $75,000 price tag.” – Brent Newbery, Parts Manager at Arends-Awe, Inc. in Winchester, Illinois.

Tire Advantages

  • Increased stability in muddy conditions
  • Higher steering control with heavier loads
  • Ability to lug, if the tractor slips, traction is able to be regained
  • Depending on tire, there can be float or minimal abrasion of the topsoil

Tire Disadvantages

  • Tends to cause a higher rate of compaction due to lugs on the tire
  • Smaller contact patches going across rows instead of length wise
  • Rutting can occur
  • Centralized compaction

Radial Tires: Ply cords run radially. The ply transmits the pressure from the thread and the belts. These belts help restrict tire growth and stabilizes the tread. The tread and cords can run independently. Bias Tires: Consists of multiple rubber plies overlapping each other. The thick layer is less flexible, but has the potential for float.

“Over-sized or high-flotation tires are hard to beat.” Kevin Lutz who is a technical manager at Michelin North American Agricultural Tires. These tires are called “floater tires,” they are almost twice as large as a standard tire, used on combines.


A farmer that prefers tires, will normally choose a radial tire to help minimize the equipment’s footprint. A track is also considered a radial design. A standard radial tire features a large air chamber within the tire that allows for lower pressure while carrying a heavier load, this will help reduce the effects of soil compaction. Some research would suggest that the best tire is one that provides a broad, flat tread, to increase traction, reduce slippage, and improve fuel efficiency.

According to Successful Farming magazine, farmers can help reduce compaction by controlling traffic, crop rotations of fibrous and tap roots, build up soil organic matter each rotation, and limit traffic in wet conditions.

In regards to statistics to figure if technology has decreased compaction, in a study done between a Claas Terra Trac System verses a North American track system in No-Till magazine concluded that the North American track reduced soil movement within 4 to 23 inches by 65%. This trail was performed by Kevin Lutz and Dirk Ansorge in 2007.

The future of track and tire technology looks bright. Currently Mitas has introduced a PneuTrac system that allows a tire to have the capabilities a track does for traction and footprint and the ride quality and lugging capabilities of a tire.

Mitas PneuTrac system from


Whether a farmer chooses to use, tracks, tires, floaters, or this new PnueTrac system, the possibilities are endless for advancements. In the end, the decision is up to the farmer. There are the considerations of cost, efficiency, future generations, and time that every farmer is conscious of. The technology of the future will help classify this debate, but for now – power to the farmer.






My name is Katie Boston and I am studying Agricultural Business with a minor in Agronomy at Western Illinois University.  In May I will graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree. I am from Jacksonville, Illinois and since 2013 I have been working at Arends-Awe, Inc as a part-time administrative assistant. I grew up on a crop and swine farm east of town and have a strong passion for agriculture.

Thank you for reading my blog.







One thought on “Tracks vs.Tires: The Compaction Debate

  1. springbeauties96

    Interesting! I never really thought about the difference between the effects of tires versus tracks in crop fields before. I can see why there would be a big difference. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s