Propane finding a new fit for power needs on the farm

It wasn’t that long ago that almost all irrigation pumps were powered with diesel or electricity. But an abundant supply of natural gas and, thus, propane is helping propane-powered engines make some inroads into that field. The Propane Education and Research Council’s Mark Leitman talked about the current outlook for propane usage in this interview at the PERC exhibit at this year’s Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Leitman says propane has always been cheaper than diesel or gasoline on a BTU basis but that recent exploration has provided with United States with even more abundant supplies of natural gas. Propane, which is a part of natural gas, has enjoyed lower prices and increased popularity for power uses.

"New propane technologies can help farmers save money and get the job done," says Leitman. "Propane is a clean, American-made energy source that's extremely price competitive compared to gasoline and diesel." (New research by PERC shows farmers who switched to propane irrigation engines lowered fuel costs by 75 percent an hour and reduced fuel consumption by 43 percent per hour.)

Leitman said PERC's Propane Farm Incentive Program offers financial incentives for farmers interested in purchasing new propane-fueled irrigation engines, grain dryers or other eligible equipment. The initiative offers $400 per liter of engine displacement up to $5,000 for qualified irrigation engines. Producers can also earn up to $5,000 toward the purchase of a new propane-fueled grain dryer.

Farmers are turning toward propane for an energy source, not only for irrigation and grain drying but also for pickup trucks and other uses. PERC has been targeting companies with fleets of trucks for conversion to propane engines. "It makes a lot of sense for an owner or manager to set up a central refueling point for a group of trucks to cut down on the expense of gasoline or diesel."

Commercial landscapers are also getting into propane, equipping lawnmowers and other lawn care tools with propane engines.

Nearly 40 percent of farms in the U.S. now use propane to run pumps and engines, heat buildings and dry and process crops, says Leitman. Already this year PERC has awarded nearly $600,000 in incentives to producers through the Propane Farm Incentive Program. For more information about the program and propane uses, go to

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