Getting the Most from Your Energy Dollar...
Using Energy Wisely on the Farm and Ranch

There’s no avoiding this reality in farming: Energy is one of the more expensive components of raising crops and livestock. In fact in 2005 in Nebraska, agricultural expenditures rose 10 percent above 2004 costs according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of rising costs for fuel and fertilizer — which is petroleum-based. An earlier USDA study found that nearly half the cost of production was spent for energy.

Selecting Energy-Efficient Tractors

Nebraska Tractor Tests are available to farmers and ranchers who want to compare tractors on the basis of energy and power performance. Information on any specific tractor can be used to determine proper operating conditions, such as correct ballasting and operating speeds. The fuel efficiency information in the tests can be used to estimate average operating costs.

Individual tractor test reports are available for a small fee or as an annual subscription. Subscribers to the Nebraska Tractor Test Reports receive individual tests, as they are printed and also the Nebraska Tractor Test Data summary booklet.

Copies of the test results for any tractor tested may be obtained for a nominal fee by writing to the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE 68583. The test results also are published by the Implement and Tractor Redbook and Doane’s Agricultural Service in summary form.

More information about the fact sheets can be found at the University of Nebraska Tractor Testing Laboratory.

Water Conservation in Irrigation

A January/February 2009 issue of Water Efficiency featured an article on saving irrigation water. “SWAT Away Wasted Water”, by Lyn Corum is an article that lists a host of new technologies that can significantly reduce water use for agricultural crops and commercial growing operations. The author states that electronically regulated irrigation can be an important tool to both reduce applied water and increase revenues.

New Tool May Save Money for Nebraska Irrigators

A tool developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers may help irrigators evaluate the energy efficiency of their irrigation pumps. The engineers have developed an online spreadsheet that allows irrigators to calculate how much money they could save by making energy efficiency improvements to their irrigation systems.

Irrigators using the new tool can determine whether their pumps are using more energy than what Nebraska pumping-plant performance criteria suggest. This is done by entering data about energy use from irrigation records into the online spreadsheet. For example, the spreadsheet can calculate how much money could be saved by using a more efficient pump.

The spreadsheet tool is at Persons who do not have internet access may contact their local library or Extension Office.

And to Finance That New Pump

After using the Tool and discovering how much money and energy you can really save on your irrigation operations, you may want to visit the web sites listed below for assistance in financing the improvements.

Using Biodiesel on the Farm
ATTRA’s National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service offers a 12-page publication, “Biodiesel Use, Handling, and Fuel Quality,” that highlights the use of biodiesel in diesel engines and addresses questions from biodiesel powerfarmers and ranchers considering biodiesel in their operations.

Biodiesel can be substituted for petroleum-based diesel fuel in virtually any standard unmodified diesel engine. However, biodiesel has chemical properties that require somewhat different use and handling. While most biodiesel users experience few if any problems, consumers can take precautions to avoid potential problems associated with poor quality fuel. Most biodiesel users pour it in the tank and experience few if any problems. Nonetheless, biodiesel has chemical properties that can cause difficulties. For example:

  • Biodiesel’s detergent or solvent properties can clog your fuel filter as it cleans carbon deposits from your engine.
  • Compared to petrodiesel, biodiesel has somewhat worse cold-flow properties.
  • Biodiesel degrades rubber and certain other materials, making it incompatible with some fuel lines, rubber gaskets, and other engine parts.

The ATTRA project has served as the premier source of information about sustainable agriculture for U.S. farmers and other agriculturists for twenty years. ATTRA is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Business-Cooperative Service. (ATTRA was formerly known as the "Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas" project.)

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