Installing a new fuel filter on the tractor, correctly inflating the tires and picking the right tractor for a job are a few simple tasks that will go a long way toward improving fuel efficiency on the farm.
"Improving efficiency on the farm is not only a risk-reduction strategy, it's a profitability strategy," says Bill Casady, a University of Missouri Extension agricultural engineer.
Replacing fuel and oil filters are a couple of the easiest ways to cut diesel usage.
In a test, oil and fuel filters were replaced in 99 tractors that were at all stages of maintenance. Fuel efficiency increased 3.5%, on average, Casady says. In tractors with extremely dirty filters, replacements can increase fuel efficiency by 10% to 20%.
Casady also recommends general tune-ups according to the manufacturers' recommendations.
If a farmer has more than one tractor then pick the tractor to use based on the job, the smaller the tractor the better. If a larger than necessary tractor is all that's available, Casady suggested the "gear up and throttle back" method of operation. Partially throttling a tractor with a light load, instead of running it at full throttle, can increase fuel efficiency from 10% to 30%, Casady says.
Adjust tire pressure according to the load, based on the manufacturers' recommendations. Many farmers put too much air into their tractor tires.
Casady says modern radial tractor tires can be used safely at 6 to 7 psi under normal conditions but only when matched to the weight of the tractor. Add 4 to 5 psi under rough terrain or other conditions that could damage the sidewalls. Larger loads also require higher tire pressure.
Casady also suggests using combination field tools to cut the number of tractor trips needed across a plot.
Bonus tip: fuel efficient grain drying
While high temperature dryers are often required to quickly dry and preserve grain, sometimes more cost-effective natural air drying methods can be employed and result in less heat damage to grain.
A variety of methods can be used, depending on weather, grain conditions and available bin space. If grain can be left in the field for an extra four to five days that can do half of the drying job naturally. Then non-heated bin fans can finish it.
Casady says that while heat is often necessary, efficient management practices can often reduce the amount of fuel needed. The cost difference between using heated air versus non-heated air while running drying fans can be as much as $30 per acre.
FYIFor more information on conserving energy on farms, grain drying and other ways to lower energy bills, visit agebb.missouri.edu.