How can we make farms more energy efficient?

Energy Efficiency Opportunities in AgricultureReplace incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Replace diesel pumps with electric pumps for irrigation. Set an engine block heater timer on agricultural vehicles. A significant part of the energy costs of agriculture comes from sources such as fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs that require a significant amount of energy for their production and application.

The term “indirect energy use” is generally used when energy is consumed outside the farm, such as in the manufacture of fertilizer. Nutrient management plans, soil testing, fertilizer and pesticide bundling, and precision agriculture also help reduce energy use. Harvesting your crops under optimal conditions can make your harvest more efficient. Crops that are too wet or soil that is wet consume more fuel, so if you wait for the conditions to be right, you save energy.

Adding or improving insulation can have a significant impact on energy costs and comfort. This applies to both housing and farm buildings. If there are fuel tanks on the farm, keep them cool to reduce fuel evaporation and inspect them regularly for leaks. For milk producers, a plate heat exchanger of the right size can reduce energy costs for cooling milk by up to 50%.

The following is a list of ten general measures related to the use of tractors and field vehicles that you could take to improve the energy efficiency of your farm. Finally, take advantage of state and federal tax breaks, grants, and innovative programs to reduce energy use on your farm (see additional information section below). Many utility companies can recommend an auditor, or you can find information about the audit in the Massachusetts Agricultural Energy Program (MFEP) or the USDA's Rural Energy Program for the United States (REAP). Driving equipment in the fields is one of the biggest uses of energy on the farm, so careful maintenance and use of tractors will greatly improve energy efficiency.

However, on your farm, some of those energy costs may not be necessary, and you could help reduce the amount of energy that agriculture requires in general by reducing the excessive consumption of manufactured nitrogen. Compact fluorescent lighting can be installed in barns and other areas of the farm to reduce the electricity bill. Not all of these tips will work for every farm; some of them may not be economically feasible for you or your business, or may not make sense for what you do, so it's important to think carefully before making changes. Larger tractors tend to waste more energy, so if you run a farm that produces a lot of different crops or you need to perform a lot of different field operations, having and using different sized tractors may be a good investment for you.

The use of fuel and electricity on farms is as important for sustainability and energy savings as the use of land and water. Conservation and energy efficiency on farms are a broad topic and farmers should find information from other sources on the implementation of specific practices. Switching to minimal or no tillage can reduce fuel use by 86%, but may increase farmers' dependence on herbicides to control weeds. Farms have nearly doubled their average energy efficiency over the past 25 years, and most farms still have good opportunities to save energy and money.

Another thing to consider are the ways in which your farm could save hidden energy, or all the energy associated with a product throughout its life cycle. Grain-producing farms can reduce energy consumption and reduce costs by improving their grain drying system. .

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