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Getting the Most from Your Energy Dollar...

Using Energy Wisely on the Farm and Ranch

There’s no avoiding this reality in farming:  Direct energy accounts for 5 to 7 percent of farm expenditures; indirect energy accounts for 9 to 10 percent. Because small farms operate on profit margins well under 10 percent, efficiency measures that reduce energy costs can make a real impact.

Precision Agriculture Conservation Practices that Save You Money

American ag producers can save significant quantities of energy by implementing precision agriculture practices on their land. For example, if guidance systems were used on 10 percent of the planted acres in the U.S., fuel use would be cut by 16 million gallons, herbicide use by 2 million quarts, and insecticide use by 4 million pounds per year. Less fuel, natural gas, herbicide, and insecticide used on the farm results in financial savings for producers.

Using a guidance system on a 1,000-acre farm with a continuous corn crop would reduce overlap from 24 inches to 2 inches, and result in savings valued at approximately $13,000 per year. Producers find that a guidance system can pay for itself in just two to three years.

Precision agriculture, also known as “site-specific crop management,” is an information- and technology-based agricultural management system used to identify, analyze, and manage variability within fields for optimum profitability, sustainability, and environmental protection.

Fields often vary in soil types, elevations, soil chemistry, fertility, and productivity. By applying precision agriculture practices, producers are able to specify the farm input needs (including nutrient and pesticide application, tillage, and irrigation) throughout an individual field. Free public access to the Federal Global Position System (GPS) has made it economically possible for producers to use new precision tools, techniques, and services to enhance their efforts to save energy and reduce costs. These include yield monitoring, grid soil sampling, variable-rate application of nutrients, remote-sensing applications, soil electrical conductivity monitoring, and zone soil sampling.

In addition to cutting production costs and saving energy, precision agriculture reduces environmental pollution and improves water quality by reducing nutrient runoff. Other benefits include:

  • Improved crop yield;
  • Reduced compaction by limiting traffic to specified travel lanes;
  • Increased opportunity to operate equipment after dark;
  • Labor savings through reduced implement overlap; and
  • More accurate farming records

The Natural Resources Conservation District supports conservation practices that save producers money and improve the environmental health of the Nation. For more information on energy-saving conservation practices, visit the NRCS “Save ENERGY, Save MONEY” webpage.