Castor Bean for Biofuel Production

Table of Contents

Figure 1. Castor bean plant. Source:


Castor bean (Ricinus communis L.) has been used for many years as an industrial oilseed crop because of its high seed oil content ( ~50%), unique fatty acid composition (high in ricinoleic acid)and lubricity, potentially high oil yields (from <100 to >250 gallons/acre have been reported), and its ability to  grow under varying …

Introduction to Farm Equipment Energy Efficiency


Photo: Jason Johnson, NRCS.

Farms have lots of equipment, and most of it uses energy. In some cases, increasing the efficiency of a single piece of equipment or an operation can result in significant energy savings, especially over time. In other situations, many small improvements in efficiency and conservation across the farm can add up to meaningful reductions in energy use and operating costs.

In field-crop based agriculture, liquid fuel use in field operations is equivalent to fertilizers and pesticides …

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 …

Energy Use and Efficiency in Pest Control, Including Pesticide Production, Use, and Management Options

Photo: Soil Science at North Carolina State University.


Up until the last half century, agricultural producers used a variety of cultural and biological controls in an attempt to manage crop pests. The use of pesticides to control weeds, insects, diseases, and other pests is now the predominant force in industrialized agriculture, enhancing the ability of a few workers to cultivate large areas. With the advent of pesticides, human and environmental health have become areas of concern, as has the …

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 …

Energy-Efficient Use of Fertilizer and Other Nutrients in Agriculture

This equipment is broadcasting fertilizer to build overall soil fertility. Photo: Andy Harper.


An important way farmers can conserve energy is making efficient use of fertilizers and other nutrient sources. This article will introduce farmers to the concepts of fertilizer energy and efficient nutrient use. It discusses how to optimize fertilizer use by soil testing, fertilizer placement, and application and by using farm manures and cover crops as part of a soil fertility plan. It includes a discussion on …

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 …

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 …