Master & Commander

Mud Commander could revolutionize how pivots get through the field

Published online: Feb 08, 2020 Feature, New Products Tyrell Marchant, editor
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This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

Corey Schaaf had spent more than 20 years in irrigation service, sales and design. As the years wore on and technology continued to improve, he kept hearing one complaint come back to him: No matter how well everything else might work, growers inevitably had issues with stuck pivots, deep wheel tracks and expensive tires.

Estimates put the total number of pivots in the U.S. alone at around 150,000. If each one of those were a seven-tower pivot, that computes to some 2.1 million pivot tires on U.S. farms. These tires’ lifespan is typically eight to 10 years. Using these figures, Schaaf estimates that 250,000 pivot tires end up in landfills or recycling centers every year. Assuming each tire costs around $500, nearly $125 million is spent annually just on replacement pivot tires. That, he decided, was untenable.

So Schaaf set to work investigating how to improve the situation. He tried several airless tire options. Pivot walkers seemed to work well—until the mud built up in the back of the paddles, turning each paddle into a shovel and, if left unchecked, ultimately burying entire pivot towers or tearing paddles clean off. Every specialty tire Schaaf tried in his customers’ challenging environments failed to provide any tangible, long-term help.

“I wanted a design,” says Schaaf, “that had no moving parts but would also allow the mud to fall of the cleats, unlike on rubber tires. I was looking for a self-cleaning concept.”

Schaaf wanted pivot tire cleats to have enough give on initial start-up to lessen the stress on the pivot’s structure and drivetrain. After a whole lot of trial and error, he settled on a design in which the tire cleats are actually steel pipes, adding years of durable dependability to the life of each “tire.” Schaaf dubbed his product the Mud Commander.

The patent-pending design allows mud to fall out of the cleats, right back into the pivot track. This largely eliminates the need to spend valuable man-hours (not to mention time without water on a crop) digging stuck pivots out of self-made mud holes. Mud Commanders install just like standard, traditional pivot tires and will fit on all pivot brands.

“We are not guaranteeing that your pivot won’t ever get stuck or that it won’t leave deep tracks,” says Schaaf. “Soil types and conditions and the amount of water being applied obviously make a difference. But in our trials, we have seen great success with pivots not getting stuck.”