The coolest one-day field day I've been to lately was sponsored by Michelin Tires and held at the Purdue University Animal Sciences Research Farm near Montmorenci last week. It was refreshing to see someone put their product where their money is, and try a live demonstration, even if the results didn't come out exactly like they had hoped.
"We're live and you never know what's going to happen," Bob Rees of Michelin said at the start of the day. He later acknowledged those words proved to be truer than he had hoped. But most people seemed impressed with what they saw.
Bob and I didn't get off to the best start. After being there just a short time and during an early break, I asked him if his brogue was Australian. I know some people from Australia, and was just trying to be friendly. He seemed offended; in one of those you're not sure if he's kidding or not sort of ways.
"So where are you from?" I asked.
"I'm not going to tell you," and he walked off. He never did tell me, but we chatted amiably later in the days. My guess is maybe I was a country or two off, like maybe I should have guessed New Zealand. Maybe Australia vs. New Zealand is like a Purdue vs. IU thing, beats me.
Anyway, gist of the field day was to run a Case 330 Magnum with a 7-shank ripper and regular tires, actually a competitive brand to the host company, at suggested tire inflation pressure settings. They did that in the morning. And the idea was to record all kinds of data on fuel efficiency and how much fuel was used from the super-sophisticated display on the Case tractor. The only problem was that it stalled out once, and lost part of the GPS data.
Don't sneer green fans. This was a just-harvested silage field. Jeff Fields, who supervises crop operations at the farm, said they hauled off silage in wagons, with a total load of 11 tons on six little tires. And the end rows looked like a roadway. That's where he stalled out, trying to pull seven shanks 12 inches deep from a drop-and-go start at 6-plus miles per hour. Try it with your own tractor before you decide that's an easy thing to do.
Then after another demonstration and lunch, the crowd went back to the field. Meanwhile, the guys from Coogle's Tires, a local dealer in Otterbein, were busy, switching out tires all the way around to Michelin's newest technology tires, designed to leave a bigger footprint and create less soil compaction per square foot. That was eight tires to switch, with duals in the back and duals on the front-wheel assist tractor up front.
A problem in the morning was power hop, where the tractor looks like it starts dancing up and down. Bob Rees had barely more than finished saying 'now see if there's any power hop this afternoon' when sure enough, even on the Michelin's, it started hopping like a rabbit. And when the tractor came in to report data, some performance figures were better than the morning, some not as good.
"Oh well," Rees said, "This is what happens when you go live."
Increasing the tire pressure in the front tires from six psi to 10, a suggestion from Roger Lewno of Case, made all the difference. The back tires also had six psi of pressure. At the new setting, the power hop disappeared.
There was still slippage and a need to gear down when he put down two more knives and tried to pull nine shanks with a two-wheel assist tractor, but the tires were biting in, Lewno assured. Then it was a matter of needing more horsepower for the implement.
Here's to the Michelin folks for being brave enough to try a complicated demonstration live. It didn't turn out like they planned, but they were winners in my book. They were honest, and admitted it didn't work. They looked for explanations, found them, like needing more pressure upfront, but they didn't seek excuses. That's refreshing!
And the cheeseburger at lunch piled high with garden goodies and mayo wasn't bad either! Thanks guys!
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