Fuel-saving steps can help farm’s bottom line


COLUMBIA, Mo. – Since oil prices raise the cost of gasoline and diesel to power farm tractors, Extension specialists agree steps can be taken that will have a positive impact on a farm’s bottom-line this year.
Gary Naylor, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension, has some suggestions based on his own experience. “It is a lot less expensive to let the cattle harvest the forage than machinery. This might mean electric fencing so you control where the animal eats,” said Naylor.
Spraying for weeds would also take less horsepower than brush hogging.
Gordon Carriker, an Extension agriculture business specialist, says the first step to saving fuel on the farm is taking a soil test.
“If producers don’t have to put down lime or fertilizer, they reduce fuel costs and the higher costs of petroleum-derived fertilizers. If they do need fertilizer, they should put down just the amount the soil test recommends.”
It is also important to calibrate chemical spraying equipment, so producers know they are putting down the correct amount of herbicide/insecticide.
Ed Browning, natural resources engineering specialist, says cutting back on tillage is another cost-savings step worth considering. “Consider using minimum tillage to reduce the number of trips over the field, or this might be the time to switch to no-till planting.”
When it comes to farm tractors, keeping equipment maintained and serviced will reduce fuel usage. Do things like repair fuel and oil leaks, clean or replace air filters, use the recommended grade of motor oil and use properly inflated radial tires.
Properly-inflated radial tires provide a larger, flatter footprint than bias-ply tires.
Tractor owners should also gear-up and throttle down. In other words, reduce engine RPM up to 20 percent and shift to a higher gear to maintain ground speed. This will result in 15 percent to 30 percent fuel savings.
It is also a good idea to use ballast to keep wheels from slipping and using more fuel and keep tires properly inflated. Ballast the tractor to allow 8 percent to 15 percent wheel slip for the best efficiency.
See MU Guide G1235 at http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/agengin/g01235.htm for more details.
One of the easiest, but most overlooked steps, is combining errands to eliminate multiple trips, and using two-way radios to communicate with those in the field, instead of driving out to check on them.
It is also a good idea to consider modifying equipment, so you can perform multiple field operations in one pass.; just match the tractor to the load.

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