Diesel prices a reason to take stock, reevaluate crop production expenses


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Diesel prices are up roughly 50 percent from this time last year and farmers need to look at different methods to maximize fuel efficiency, said a Purdue University expert.

The average price farmers paid for diesel fuel in the Corn Belt last April was $2.50 per gallon according to reports from Indiana’s Agriculture Statistics Service, compared to $3.66 per gallon in April 2008.

“This means it’s going to take more money to get the crop in the ground and to harvest it in the fall,” said Alan Miller, Purdue Extension farm business management specialist.


“At Purdue, we’ve estimated it will cost farmers $10 more this year to produce an acre of corn just due to fuel for machinery operation.

“To plant an acre of soybeans, it will cost farmers $4 more per acre than last year and for wheat $6 more per acre.”

However, Miller said machinery fuel is a relatively small part of the total cost of producing corn and soybeans compared to the rest of the operation, at approximately 7 percent.

“This year will be a record year for crop production expenditures,” he said.

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Miller recommends 10 strategies to maximize efficiency and reduce fuels costs:

  • Switch to a no-till or reduced tillage operation for corn where it makes sense.
  • Combine more operations into each pass over the field.
  • Think like a marketer and keep in mind the annual cycle of fuel prices due to seasonality.
  • Shop around to get the best fuel price and try and buy in bulk — half semi-tankers-plus.
  • Check out technologies such as autosteer to reduce overlap and get out of the fields quicker.
  • Organize to reduce costs and minimize the amount of time spent getting to and from different fields.
  • Operate at the optimal speed.
  • Match the tractor’s horsepower with the equipment being pulled behind it.
  • Inspect and maintain the right combination of tire slippage, tire air pressure and axle weight to get optimum traction rates.
  • Follow appropriate maintenance schedules for all field equipment.


“Farmers should go back to the drawing board and reevaluate their production system from a holistic approach and make changes or adjustments where needed to maximize efficiency,” Miller said.

“It’s often the little things you do that add up more than changing any one big thing.”


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  1. The cost-effective, sustainable solution is Compressed Natural Gas or CNG. For better fuel economy, fleets like UPS are adding more CNG trucks to their fleet.


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