When the goal is to float a full-sized tractor in a deep pond, the first thing you do is the math.
The second thing you do is a thorough double-check, says Jeff Miller, with Mitas Tires, who stood beside a glistening and dripping New Holland T4.110 tractor on a sunny afternoon at a recent fall farm show.
“First of all, you have to do all your math right,” he says. “You have to go back to high school physics class when you talk about buoyancy calculations, and it really is that simple.”
Miller and other members of the Mitas marketing staff spent their time at the farm show taking turns manning the project that was the result of that physics: floating then driving a tractor back and forth on a drainage pond dug next to the show’s grounds.
Their efforts drew as much attention as anything else on the premises. Curious onlookers lined up along the steep banks of the pond, and some, stuck having to keep an eye on their booths just inside the show’s perimeter fence, stacked pallets high and climbed up to get a peek. They pulled out a cell phone to send videos home, gawked and traded one-liners.
“Little wet to plant, ya think?” quipped one onlooker.
It was a planting setup, and there was no practical application to the demonstration: not farming during a flood, not working cranberries or rice, or a corn field in a hurricane. Mitas strapped 1000/50 R 25 SFT to the front, a tire that, at 40 inches wide, was so big the crew had to limit the steering capability on the front axel so they didn’t get turned too short and into the body of the tractor. The rear hubs were equipped with the 1250/50 R 32 SFT, 48 inches wide and the largest tire in the Mitas lineup.
POTENTIAL APPLICATION. Neither tire is meant for use on a tractor. They’re more ideally bolted onto equipment such as grain wagons, but the idea was to show off the flotation potential of the SFT (Super Flexion Tire) line.
“The SFT line of tires is designed for low soil impact, flotation and load-carrying capacity,” Miller says. “The whole intent is just to start the conversation. It’s just a fun way to show off the flotation. Until a tractor can fly and not touch the ground, soil compaction and maintaining a healthy soil structure is critical to having high yields.”
Mitas first floated the idea for the demonstration in Europe, where some brave engineers double-checked the math before driving into a lake. Preparing for the demonstration, Mitas employees checked everything on another pond in Northern Iowa before driving into the water in front of hundreds of wide-eyed farmers.
The entire setup weighed in at about 13,000 pounds. The machine motored up and down the pond, the wheels spinning and providing propulsion much like a paddle steamer. When the wheels weren’t turning at all, the machine drifted with the wind.
Aside from limiting the steering, there were no major modifications made to the tractor, and water did not leak into the cab, much to the relief of the drivers.
“It’s a little … weird, is probably the best way to put it,” Miller says. “Your mind is all wired, ‘No, no, no, I shouldn’t be doing this. I know better than this. My mom taught me better than this,’ but you roll down, and all of a sudden the nose pops up, and it floats right in.”
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