Tractor operations represent a significant portion of annual on-farm fuel costs.
Rising fuel prices present a challenge for growers as they prepare for spring field work. A new publication from Iowa State University Extension illustrates the “shift up, throttle back” technique to reduce tractor fuel consumption and related expenses.
“Shift Up and Throttle Back to Save Tractor Fuel” (PM 2089M)  is available to download from the Extension Online Store.
“Spring is here, and this year’s rising temperatures are accompanied by rising fuel prices,” said Dana Petersen, ISU Extension program coordinator with ISU Farm Energy. “Striving to get the best performance from any tractor can help farmers to reduce costs by conserving fuel.”
Older model tractors need more attention
Late-model tractors with “infinitely” or “continuously” variable transmissions are designed to automatically perform at maximum fuel efficiency, but older models need more attention. Spring field work requires varying amounts of drawbar force depending on the size of the tractor, the size of the implement and soil conditions. With a partial drawbar load, the fuel efficiency of a diesel engine is fairly forgiving if the operator will “shift up and throttle back.”
“The first step to reduce fuel consumption is remembering to shift up to a higher gear and ease back on the throttle when the tractor is only partially loaded,” said Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer. “This technique alone can easily improve fuel savings by 10 percent.”
For more tips on tractor maintenance from Hanna and other ISU ag engineers, visit http://farmenergy.exnet.iastate.edu  and register for the upcoming Farm Energy webinar scheduled for May 11.
The Farm Energy webinar and publications are part of a series of farm energy conservation and efficiency educational materials being developed through the ISU Farm Energy Initiative . The purpose is to increase farmers’ awareness of opportunities for improving efficient use of farm energy. The initiative also will help farmers and utility providers to explore alternatives to reduce farm energy demand and to improve overall profitability in a rapidly changing energy environment.