With harvest right around the corner, farmers are beginning to prep their equipment for the fall rush.

In farming, timing is everything, and any unplanned downtime during the short harvest period can have an adverse effect on a farmer’s bottom line. As such, diligent farmers will invest significant time ensuring the combine and grain cart are in top working condition — but what about the tires?

Tires are often a forgotten component of the combine and grain cart, yet a full hopper of grain on today’s combines can add 16,000 pounds to the load, resulting in additional stress to the tires and increased compaction to the soil. To ensure optimum performance during harvest, it’s every bit as important to prepare tires as it is to prepare the equipment.

“Getting prepared for harvest begins by ensuring you have the right tires for the job,” says Scott Sloan, product engineering manager for Goodyear Farm Tires. “What might be a great setup for wet soil conditions may not be great for dry conditions, and vice versa. So, the two primary things to consider when selecting combine tires is the tread design and whether you want to use duals or singles; both decisions should be based on whether you’ll be working in wet or dry soils.”

Combine tires are available in a wide array of tread designs — ranging from R-1 to R-3 — each designed for a specific type of application.

For decades, the R-1 has been the standard, general-purpose farm tire in the United States, but recently, the R-1W (sometimes referred to as the European R-1) has become increasingly common. Though there is much debate in the industry over which design is better overall, it really comes down to how and where the farmer plans to use it, Sloan explains.

“The R-1W has the exact same lug design, but the lugs are approximately 22 percent deeper than an R-1, which gives it slightly better traction in wet soils,” says Sloan.

“If running an R-1 in extremely wet soils, the voids between the lugs can fill, causing the tire to not penetrate the firm soil under the mud. However, if you run the combine on the road a lot or on very dry soil, the R-1 is going to provide a bit of a smoother ride due to the shallow lugs. So again, it really comes down to preference and soil conditions, but in the end, both the R-1 and R-1W are good all-around performers.”

For those farmers who work primarily in very wet conditions, R-2 tires are designed with the deepest available lugs and a higher void-to-lug ratio, which provides excellent traction.

“I’d recommend going with an R-2 for those who work in extremely mucky conditions, such as cane and rice fields,” explains Sloan. “However, if you only work in these conditions some of the time, it’s still better to go with an R-1 or R-1W because they’ll provide a smoother ride in dry conditions.”

Lastly, R-3 tires are designed with a high lug-to-void ratio and what is commonly referred to as a button tread design, which is flexible and provides minimal ground disturbance.

“I’d recommend using an R-3 for applications where the farmer is concerned about the tires tearing up the ground,” says Sloan.