Fuel efficiency - making the most of tractor power
The most efficient tractor for a job is one which is matched to the task with respect to its power and is fuel efficient. If you need to have a high power tractor for some jobs on the farm then you probably also use it for light work at some time of the year - switching to a smaller tractor will use less fuel. When buying a new tractor you should always consider and compare fuel consumption figures.
Over 20 years ago the National Institute of Agricultural Engineering got a 2wd tractor to perform almost as well as a 4wd by fitting the best tyre size set at the correct pressure for the job. Recently Efficient 20.eu achieved a 30% fuel saving by a 4wd tractor during ploughing by a combination of fitting larger tyres and reducing the pressure from 23psi all round to 12psi and 14psi on the front and rear respectively.
Setting the correct tyre pressure depends on the weight on the wheel - ideally you need a weighbridge, but a simple rule for radial tyres is 3 tread bars should be touching the ground. For even better performance, follow the tyre manufacturer's charts, these will recommend a pressure based on measuring the static loaded radius of the tyre i.e. the measurement from the centre of the axle to the ground.
Do you often leave the tractor idling while you do something else? If this is due to either battery or starter problems get them sorted out.
A dirty air cleaner can reduce power output by 30% or more and will increase fuel consumption by a similar amount as all the fuel injected cannot be burned properly - the engine can also emit black smoke.
Direct drilling in place of ploughing, cultivating and sowing can reduce fuel use from up to 60 litres/ha to about 12 litres/ha. It can offer other efficiency benefits too including producing a firm working surface and not having to cart off the stones pulled up by cultivation.