HAVE TRACTOR MANUFACTURERS BORE IN MIND SOIL COMPACTION OVER THE LAST 40 YEARS?
Soil compaction is the compression of soil particles in a lower volume as a consequence of the reduction of the spaces existing among the particles themselves. This phenomenon is caused by natural forces and, above all, human ones. In order to estimate the field damages that can be caused by the traffic of agricultural machines, the load and the mean pressure applied by the tyres onto the soil can be measured. The research aim is to determine the pressure applied by each considered tractor onto the soil, in order to evaluate the effect of the traffic of tractors onto the soil itself.
A total of 783 wheeled tractors manufactured and marketed in the last 35 years (1979-2014) were investigated. Data like construction year, manufacturer, model, power, total weight, weight (load) on the front and rear axle, wheelbase, front and rear type of tyres, as well as the tyre specifications, were collected.
The mean pressure applied by each tractor onto the soil was computed by dividing the load applied on each tyre by its contact area.
In order to reduce the pressure applied by agricultural machines onto the soil, the vehicle mass and, therefore weight, has to be reduced, or the tyre contact area on the soil has to be increased. Farmers can easily increase the tyre contact area, by decreasing the tyre inflation pressure or increasing the tyre width, i.e. mounting tyres having a larger section width, or Terra Tyres, or twin-tyres.
Over the last 40 years: the mean power of mechanical four wheel drive (MFWD) tractors and four wheel drive (4WD) (isodiametric tyres) tractors increased, while that of two wheel drive (2WD) tractors remained constant; the power and the total weight increased, while the weight-power ratio decreased. Practically the reduction of the mean pressure on the soil resulted rather limited, meaning that tractor manufacturers have not bore in mind soil compaction.