A Norfolk farmer has moved to a zero-tillage system and invested in new tire technology to protect his soil. It has taken James Goodley four years to change his farming methods, and he believes by fitting his machines with the latest VF tires he can protect his investment and use his machinery more responsibly.
Mr Goodley farms in Norfolk, where he grows wheat, oil seed rape, peas, and forage rye. In addition, 175 acres have been given over to a stewardship scheme and he is growing AB15, a two-year sown legume fallow mixture. “We don’t have a fixed rotation. I judge each field based on its performance and decide what to drill the following season,” he says. “Nothing is left brown here. As well as peas, I use a cover crop mix which includes phacelia, radish, and oats,” he adds.
Mr Goodley has worked closely with his agronomist, Stephen Keach, to reduce chemical use and improve soil health by moving to no till farming. “We are lucky that we don’t suffer with black grass. Over the last four years I have seen my herbicide cost go down significantly because we are not cultivating the land like we used to. Now we just pull a very fine harrow behind the combine at 20 millimetres depth to chit the weeds,” he says. Following this the field is sprayed with glyphosate before drilling. “I think this is as sustainable a model for farming as there is,” he adds.
I attended a course to learn about tires three years ago, and ever since I have been extremely conscious of the impact that tire pressures can have on soil compaction,
To spray, he has invested in a SAM Horizon 4000 self-propelled sprayer. “I have a really good relationship with SAM and their after service has been second to none. This is my third SAM and every machine I have owned has the same first-class British build quality,” he says. However, this latest sprayer has been specified with an unusual tire option. “I attended a course to learn about tires three years ago, and ever since I have been extremely conscious of the impact that tire pressures can have on soil compaction,” he says.
Mr Goodley chose to specify the SAM with Continental VF TractorMaster 600/60R30 162D/159E tires. “I met Richard Hutchins on the Continental stand at LAMMA, and he explained the investments that the brand had made to develop new tires that could reduce soil compaction. I was encouraged to hear that so much was being spent on research and development and curious that in 2020 there would be VF tires with pressure monitors that could be used on sprayers as well as tractors,” he says.
Continental returned to the agricultural market with new tires in 2017. A new facility in Lousado, Portugal has a dedicated research and development facility and is also producing tires with new technology. “VF tires are the future for farming. Our tires feature a more flexible side wall with patented N.Flex technology. On the road this enables the vehicle to carry forty percent more load than a standard tire at the same pressure. Alternatively, in the field, the pressure of VF tires can be lowered by forty percent compared to standard tires, even when carrying the same load. This spreads the weight of the vehicle over a larger surface area and reduces soil compaction,” explains Richard Hutchins, Continental agricultural tire specialist.
Mr Goodley is a firm believer in the saying, ‘you get what you pay for’. Having experience of SAM machines, he believed that changing the tires would help reduce soil compaction and enable his operator, Steven Day, to work more considerately in difficult conditions. “Manufacturers naturally put a cost-effective tire on new machines. There is nothing wrong with this, but I wanted to do better. Considering the cost of a new sprayer, it seemed logical to invest a few hundred pounds in better tires. There is a huge range of tires on the market, but for me it had to be VF and I chose Continental to make use of the new tire pressure monitoring sensors and system,” he says.
ContiPressureCheck™ is a new system that monitors the pressure and temperature of tires to provide the operator with the information to adjust the tires to a task. “I want the sprayer tire pressures as low as possible to maximise the footprint and minimise compaction. My concern has always been to not run them too low, and that is where the tire monitor comes in because it can tell the operator if the pressure is correct,” says Mr Goodley. The SAM benefits from an onboard air supply, so can adapt the pressure of the tires to suit the land. “It’s the perfect combination, intelligent tires and a sprayer that can make the most of them,” he adds.
With a 4000-litre capacity and increase in boom width from 24 to 30 metres the SAM helps to increase daily output. “We have a sufficiently high spray capacity to get out when we need to and pick our windows. This means we can avoid times when the ground is too wet. I work with my agronomist to minimise the impact to the land and I also refer to our weather station,” he explains. A Pessl weather station helps the farm to plan by using a modelling algorithm which shows the likely conditions for common crop diseases such as Septoria and Rust. “It’s about having the data to make the decision and then, if we have to go out, I want to make sure that we are causing as little damage to soil as possible,” he says.
The SAM is being used to spray liquid nitrogen, fungicides and pesticides. However, Mr Goodley is quick to illustrate that this is kept to a minimum. To reduce interference with the soil and the crop our oil seed rape is drilled in July to reduce the risk of flea beetle. “We drill early and then let the sheep graze the fields. It’s more ecological and pesticides are expensive, so I try to avoid using them as much as possible,” he says.
Mr Goodley trades in his sprayers every five to six years. In doing so, he believes he realises the best resale value. The sprayer is unlikely to wear the tires out during this time so he also believes that they will be an asset to him in the future. “The resale value will be higher if the tires are in good condition, so making this investment now will also pay off down the line. If the tires are showing little sign of wear then I could also choose to fit them to my new machine, which will also be a cost saving,” he concludes.