Energy conservation and efficiency are essential for sustainable agriculture practices. The latter refers to workload or yield per energy unit, and the former pertains to total energy usage. While farms based in the US have almost doubled their average energy efficiencies significantly, they can still do much more to save and reuse clean energy.
Top 5 Ways to Make a Farm Energy Efficient
Here are some of the best ways they can do that:
1. Reduce Turning Time
Eco-friendly farming starts in the fields. When you turn at a field’s end or maneuver around objects, you use up fuel that you do not get a return on. To reduce that time, and if possible, make sure your fields are spacious enough to prevent this from happening. Remove barriers that a tractor would have to go around (such as fences, ditches, etc.) and use fuel that can be utilized elsewhere.
2. Use new Tractors with CVTs or IVTs
To increase the fuel efficiency of old tractors, drivers would use the “gear-up/throttle down” strategy. This gives them the speed they need without adding pressure to the engine.
New tractors are more energy efficient in comparison. Most of these have engines with Continuously Variable Transitions (CVTs) or Infinitely Variable Transitions (IVTs). In either case, drivers don’t have to maintain the gear and throttle strategy to maintain engine integrity.
The new models make that decision for them, so there is no need to change gears and RPM. The new technology also removes the engine’s strain as it goes over hills, tills heavy soil, etc.
3. Avoid Over-Tilling
Deep tilling practices do more harm than good for the environment. They use up more fuel than their shallow counterpart, which is often unnecessary. If you want to maintain an eco-friendly or green farm and cannot do without tilling, make fuel consumption energy efficient by making sure secondary tillage is shallower compared to the primary one. As a rule of thumb, the former should be half as deep as the latter.
This practice will reduce fuel consumption, and the amount of saturated soil and seeds pushed to the surface during tilling. Shallow tilling will also reduce water loss, reducing the time between irrigations.
4. Make Housing Facilities Energy Efficient
The heating and cooling bill for housing facilities will grow as your farm does. Reduce those bills by switching to natural ventilation, such as a shelter belt of trees along the north side of those buildings. The trees will provide shade during the summer and block cold winter winds, thus reducing heating costs.
When constructing new farm buildings, ensure they have large doors facing south to reduce heat loss during winter. Also, consider using an alternative heat source such as oil heaters that run on used machinery oil. Ventilation fans in livestock pens and barns should also be dust-free, so they don’t consume more energy to work.
Plus, large fans are more efficient than smaller ones, but you can do one better and opt for natural ventilation. It uses no energy. Similarly, opt for compact fluorescent lighting for barns and other farm buildings to save energy. Just make sure these are covered.
5. Opt For Eco-Friendly Watering Systems
Today, livestock watering and irrigation systems can be designed to use less water and energy. For example, evapotranspiration (ET) based irrigation scheduling ensures fields are watered properly with the exact amount of water they need to maintain crop growth. Similarly, if you ensure that livestock is watered with insulated eq that are unplugged when not in use, you can reduce your water and energy bill significantly.
Eco-friendly farming is the future if we want to reverse the effects of climate change. The fact that it allows farmers to reduce energy consumption, make farm activities more efficient, and save money is just a bonus.
About Jillian Hishaw
MacArthur Foundation recipient, Jillian Hishaw is an experienced and passionate agricultural attorney who has helped countless farmers receive justice. She is also the founder and CEO of her private practice, Hishaw Law LLC, and was recognized by the CLIF Bar Co. for her achievements. She has authored several books that contain invaluable information on her experiences as an agricultural attorney.