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9 ways to trim your spring fuel bill
Per-gallon diesel prices with a 4 in front of them can really stress a farm's bottom line. And, if you've got a crop to plant this spring, you're probably staring down the barrel of a season of major fuel usage. Here are a few things you can do to try to trim down that fuel bill this spring.
Limit field operations
Obviously a big way to cut back on fuel use is cut back the number of trips you make through the field. Experts say the best way to do this is combine field operations. "Modify equipment, where applicable, to perform multiple operations in one pass. This allows farmers to reduce the number of trips across a field," according to a report from California Farm Bureau (CFBF).
Iowa State University (ISU) research shows there's no corn yield difference between fields tilled at a 6- to 8-inch depth versus a depth of 12 inches. "Once you till beyond the first 3 to 4 inches of soil in a given tillage operation, the amount of fuel used increases directly with tillage depth," says ISU Extension ag engineer Mark Hanna.
Conduct regular maintenance
Keeping your iron in good shape is one of the best ways to trim fuel use. "Several techniques can help to save 5% to 15% or more of fuel. Consistently changing engine air and fuel filters on a timely basis saves 3% to 4% of fuel. Cooling system maintenance is also important to ensure that the optimal combustion occurs," Hanna says.
Shift up, throttle back
Don't hesitate to gear up and throttle back, according to CFBF. "Tractor tests indicate average fuel savings of 10% can be obtained when operating at 3/4 tractor load and approximately 20% savings at 1/2 load," adds Hanna. "Some newer, higher horsepower tractors offer the option to do this automatically through use of electronic load sensors and a continuously variable transmission."
Optimize wheel slip
Getting the most out of every gallon of diesel you use will depend on operating in the optimal slip range. "Optimal slip varies with conditions, but for heavier drawbar loads slip should be in a range of about 8% to 13% on firm soil and slightly greater, about 10% to 15% slip on tilled soil," Hanna says.
Maintain tire inflation
Overinflated tractor tires waste fuel and trim productivity; CFBF shows a tractor riding on properly inflated tires requires 20% less fuel and boosts productivity by 5%. "Under-inflated tires increase sidewall wear and can undermine tires in other ways. Check your equipment owner's manual or consult your tire distributor for information on proper tire inflation," according to CFBF.
Match tractor & implement
Whether you're matching a machine of your own with an implement, or looking at buying a new tractor, make sure you consider what tools it will be pulling through the field. "It’s...a good idea to consider size requirements, including engine power, hydraulic system capacity and braking ability," Hanna says. And, don't just think big: Fuel efficiency can suffer greatly if your tractor's too small, too, CFBF adds.
Keep up your on-farm fuel tanks
When fuel prices are high, the problem of theft grows. Make sure you keep your on-farm tanks protected with locks and/or monitoring equipment, according to CFBF. And, to reduct evaporation losses, paint on-farm tanks a lighter color.
Cut back on road use
If possible, use other means to get implements moved from field to field. And, think about how much you drive that pickup. "Heavy-duty pickups and trucks perform crucial roles on farms, but are sometimes used for trips to town that don't require their power and hauling capacity. No matter what vehicle you drive to town, consider combining trips for errands such as purchasing farm supplies," according to CFBF.
Here are a few ways to improve your fuel efficiency this spring.