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Expert offers strategies for farmers to reduce diesel fuel costs

With the increase in diesel prices, it is going to take more money to get the crop in the ground says Purdue University expert. However, there are several strategies to reduce fuel costs farmers can utilize.


May 12, 2008
By Purdue University

Topics

May 7, 2008

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Diesel prices are up roughly 50 percent from this
time last year, and farmers need to look at different methods to maximize fuel
efficiency, said a
Purdue University expert.

The
average price farmers paid for diesel fuel in the
Corn Belt last April was $2.50 per gallon,
according to reports from
Indiana's Agriculture Statistics Service
located at Purdue. This compares to this April's average of $3.66 per gallon.

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"This
means it's going to take more money to get the crop in the ground and to
harvest it in the fall," said Alan Miller, Purdue Extension farm business
management specialist. "At Purdue, we've estimated it will cost farmers
$10 more this year to produce an acre of corn just due to fuel for machinery
operation.

"To
plant an acre of soybeans, it will cost farmers $4 more per acre than last year,
and for wheat, $6 more per acre."

However,
Miller said machinery fuel is a relatively small part of the total cost of
producing corn and soybeans compared to the rest of the operation, at
approximately 7 percent.

"This
year will be a record year for crop production expenditures," he said.

Miller
recommends 10 strategies to maximize efficiency and reduce fuels costs:

* Switch
to a no-till or reduced tillage operation for corn where it makes sense.

* Combine
more operations into each pass over the field.

* Think
like a marketer and keep in mind the annual cycle of fuel prices due to
seasonality.

* Shop
around to get the best fuel price and try and buy in bulk – half semi-tankers
plus.

* Check
out technologies such as auto-steer to reduce overlap and get out of the fields
quicker.

*
Organize to reduce costs and minimize the amount of time spent getting to and
from different fields.

* Operate
at the optimal speed.

* Match
the tractor's horsepower with the equipment being pulled behind it.

* Inspect
and maintain the right combination of tire slippage, tire air pressure and axle
weight to get optimum traction rates.

* Follow
appropriate maintenance schedules for all field equipment.

"Farmers
should go back to the drawing board and reevaluate their production system from
a holistic approach and make changes or adjustments where needed to maximize
efficiency," Miller said. "It's often the little things you do that
add up more than changing any one big thing."


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