Proper maintenance of equipment and vehicles can also lead to energy savings, reminds Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer. Here are some tips:
• Maintain the right kind of tires at the proper inflation. Check tire pressure once a week during times of heavy usage. Reeder also emphasized that tractors need the proper weight for traction and the correct balance between front and rear axles for peak performance. “You want enough weight to eliminate excess slippage, but you also want to remove ballast when it is not needed,” he said. “When pulling a load, the correct amount of slippage is 8 to 12 percent on a firm surface and 10 to 16 percent on soft ground.”
This does not apply to rubber tracks, which have almost no slippage. A good way to determine if a tractor has the right slippage is to measure the distance after 10 tire revolutions in the field pulling a normal load. Next, measure the distance after 10 revolutions with no load on a driveway or other hard surface. This is representative of zero slippage. Then calculate the percentage between the two numbers to determine if you have the correct slippage.
• Keep up with regular maintenance on equipment. Routine upkeep includes changing air and fuel filters.
• Shut off idling engines. “Don’t let a diesel engine idle more than about 10 minutes,” said Reeder. “Research shows it’s less efficient to keep an engine idling for warmth than it is to re-start it. Of course, results may change in extremely cold weather.”
• Be mindful of fuel-wasting use of the equipment. For example, when subsoiling, don’t go any deeper than necessary to break up compacted soil. Reeder also recommends eliminating recreational tractor driving just for the sake of keeping busy.
• Replace worn equipment parts. “Keeping any ground-engaging tools sharp makes a big difference when it comes to saving fuel,” said Reeder.
“For many situations, every dollar saved in fuel can save a farmer $5 to $10 in total production costs,” said Reeder.