Energy Efficiency in Field Crop Production

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This curriculum module on Energy Efficiency in Field Crop Production examines four major areas where analysis and management of energy inputs in field crop production can lead to energy savings. These include reducing fuel consumption in tractor and equipment use in field operations, considering energy invested in optimizing nutrient use and pest control, saving energy in irrigation and managing grain drying for energy conservation.

Link to all of the Northeast Farm Energy IQ Curriculum, developed by Extension specialists from …

Using Tractor Test Data for Selecting Farm Tractors

Photo: Iowa Public Television.


The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory (NTTL) at the University of Nebraska is the official tractor testing station for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the United States. This independent laboratory is responsible for testing a representative tractor of each model sold in the state of Nebraska. It also tests tractors manufactured in the United States and sold in international markets. The laboratory publishes the results of all tests conducted.

The test reports …

Selecting Engine and Travel Speeds for Optimal Fuel Efficiency

Photo: Gary E. Wyatt.


The speed at which tractor engines are operated, travel speed in the field, and the load tractors pull all have a major influence on the fuel efficiency of the equipment. Running equipment at optimal speeds and loads can save significantly on fuel costs.

Optimizing Travel Speed

Field travel speed is a major factor in matching tractor to implement. For many operations, the most desirable travel speed is from 5 to 7 miles per hour (6.4 …

Match Implement Size to Tractor to Save Fuel


Photo:  Gary E. Wyatt.

Matching tractors and implements of appropriate size is a major management decision facing many farmers and ranchers. Proper sizing will minimize time and labor requirements while maintaining efficient field operations.

If the tractor is oversized for the implement, fuel consumption and costs will be higher than necessary for the work done. According to data from Lazarus, a 200 HP MFWD tractor costs $24.27 more per hour of use than a 130 HP MFWD tractor; costs …

Machinery Maintenance for Energy Efficiency

The operating condition of tractors and other farm machinery can affect the fuel efficiency of those machines; therefore, maintenance is crucial for energy and financial savings.

Tractors and self-propelled equipment

Tractor engines and engines in self-propelled equipment should be maintained in good condition. It is possible for a tractor to be operating below peak performance without noticeably affecting field performance. Preventive maintenance and scheduled tune-ups are recommended to insure that the engine operates efficiently. Follow the recommendations in the operator’s …

Tractor and Field Operations Energy Efficiency Checklist and Tips


Table of Contents


Tractor and Field Operations is part of a series of Efficiency Checklists and Topics that can help you to assess all areas of your farming operation for energy efficiency and find ideas to save energy and reduce costs. For links to other articles in the Efficiency Checklists and Topics series, see Additional Resources at the end of …

Introduction to Energy-Efficient Tractor and Field Operations

Table of Contents

Photo: Vern Grubinger.


Tractors and related field equipment can use a lot of energy on the farm, so it makes sense to take practical steps to optimize their efficiency. These include:

Ballasting Tractors for Optimal Fuel Efficiency

Tractor ballasting influences the efficiency and energy use of tractor operation. Ballasting determines the amount of slip in any given field condition, affecting fuel consumption, field operation time, and tire wear. Total tractor weight also has serious effects on compaction, transmission life, tire life, and tractor safety and stability.

In addition to the overall weight of the tractor, the way that the weight is distributed between the axles has a huge impact on tractor performance. Over-ballasting a tractor wastes fuel …

Optimize Wheel Slip to Save Fuel

Tractors and tires should be maintained to optimize tractor wheel slippage at 10% to 15%. Photo: Robert Grisso.



Tire slip occurs when the tires are turning faster than the ground speed of the tractor. As a result, less than 60% to 70% of the power that a tractor engine develops is used to pull an implement through the soil. It could even drop to 50% on soft and sandy soils.

Some of the power developed by a tractor engine …

Reducing Tillage to Save Fuel


Tillage operations are generally conducted to prepare a seedbed, incorporate fertilizers, and cultivate for weed control. The number of trips required to perform these operations depends on soil type and condition, the crop, weather conditions, and the type of tillage system utilized. Excessive tillage operations increase fuel consumption, operating costs, machinery wear, and time and labor requirements. Too much tillage also increases soil compaction and releases carbon into the atmosphere.

Reducing the number of field operations

Farmers can reduce …