Soaring Fuel Costs Favor Less Tillage

Theres no doubt that skyrocketing diesel fuel prices are forcing many farmers to take a closer look at using less tillage to farm next year.

The charts on this page give the fuel need facts and figures to let you compare four different tillage systems.

Plowing Is Costly

 University research shows that moldboard plowing alone required 1.9 gallons of diesel fuel per acre — about 25% of the fuel normally used for all field operations in producing corn.

By switching to chisel plowing, a farmer could reduce fuel consumption by about 0.7 gallons per acre.

The biggest fuel savings come with a switch to no-tillage. Fuel consumption is only 2.3 gallons per acre — roughly 70% less than with conventional tillage.

These no-tillage diesel fuel consumption figures are based on using 0.15 gallons of fuel per acre to broadcast fertilizer, 0.45 gallons to plant, 0.10 gallons to spray herbicides and 1.6 gallons to combine the crop.

Just a few years back, fuel did not represent any large percentage of total crop costs. With farmers being able to grow an acre of corn with less than $1.50 in diesel fuel costs, this made up less than 1% of total crop production costs.

Times Have Changed

For 1977-78, total cash expenses (including land rent) averaged $147.50 per acre for northern Illinois grain farms. Gas and oil costs average $7.71 per acre, or 5.2% of total crop expenses.

Projections for 1980 indicate that crop production costs (again excluding land rent) will average $164.13…

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