by Andrey V. Skotnikov
I mentioned before that the use of farm equipment in the United States in most cases is very inefficient. In Brazil average hours per tractor is 4,000, in Europe around 2000, in the U.S., not more than 1,000. But even this load per tractor, power-wise, is as well very low. Do not take my word for it just ask your equipment dealer to show you a data from your tractor load history monitor. You will be unpleasantly surprised.
So, how we can improve it? The sources of machinery efficiency (ME) are the machinery itself, technology and aggregation, and minimization of downtime. All these items are interconnected. As for equipment, we know that a compatitable and optimized set of equipment has more advantages, is more productive and easier to use as compared with a historically assembled system.
The optimization of implement lines for a given tractor and farm size is a huge separate topic. I will mentioned only major points. For instance soil preparation, fertilizer and chemicals applications, and planting can be combined in one, or it can be four different applications. The idea is to equalize the load for each operation based on an available time frame for it.
You need to look for highest power demanding operation and a time frame in which you are trying to complete it. Usually this is planting. On the rest of operations excess of power can be compensated by speed increase.
These considerations will lead you to desired productivity or speed and implement width for the most crucial operation.
The next step will be an optimization of tractor power for existing and planned implements. The general concept of matching tractor power and implement size is pretty well described here:http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a3-26.pdf
You can request more detailed power requirements from a particular implement dealer. After you determine a necessary tractor power, the next step is to choose the most fuel efficient tractor. Tractor fuel efficiency consists of
- Engine efficiency
- Fan and cooling package efficiency
- Hydraulic system efficiency and
- Transmission parasitic losses
Nebraska tests reports (http://tractortestlab.unl.edu/testreports ) have a combined fuel efficiency for normal weather. For hot weather, the deviation between equally rated tractors of different brands can be up to 15kW. You need to know fan RPM range and look for fan speed at normal conditions.
The difference in transmission oil level from minimum to maximum may create up to 20 kW power difference in transport.
Sometimes farmers are buying an extra powerful tractor just for little time reduction for critical operations. You also need to have in mind that the more powerful tractor consumes more fuel per hour at any partial regime and RPM than less powerful tractor with the same hardware.
Nebraska tests reports can help you to choose correct/suitable tractor for your applications by power and assess fuel efficiency for your applications.
This data also will allow you to calculate the volume of fuel needed for whole operations during a year. Most of the companies submit internally tested tractors for these tests with best expected results. That is why this data is useful for your control, and raise a concern for a service call in case of significant deviations of your records from a test report. Fuel efficiency data also may help you decide in favor of one brand or another. For instance, a tractor can be cheaper, but consume more fuel and that's why it's more expensive in long run to own.
Somebody may think that this is unimportant, but in Europe farmers in most cases during a year put more fuel in a tractor, than tractor cost itself.
During work you need also to monitor tires slippage. In most cases this can be controlled with correct tire pressure. Some tractors allow adjustments on-the-go.
And finally downtime it consists of two major components: equipment reliability (including technical support) and fleet management.
Fleet management will allow you to complete more jobs per week, reduce fuel costs, track and schedule maintenance, view proof of work done and time in the field, optimize scheduling and routing, reduce administration, time sheets etc.
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