John Tolley, March 27, 2018

There?s no denying that tractors are cool. They?re not only big pieces of machinery, but they help farmers around the world get food to our tables. The question is, though, how can they be cleaner and more efficient?

Researchers and students at the University of Nebraska?s Tractor Test Laboratory at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center are testing these massive farm implements to determine how to best match the right tractor to a particular job.

Speaking with Nebraska Today, Santosh Pitla, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering who is leading the research project, noted that tractors have previously been viewed as a ?one-size-fits-all? tool for agricultural projects.

?The biggest opportunity for improved tractor-testing techniques in this area is in fuel efficiency,? Pitla said. ?It?s about matching the right tractor to the right implement. Right now, tractors are oversized for some of the implements they are pulling, so they are wasting a lot of energy.?

The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory is the only facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere capable of large-scale testing of heavy farm equipment. The research will focus on three areas - power takeoff, drawbar and hydraulics - associated with the operation of auxiliary implements, such as spreaders, cultivators and planters.

Nebraska investigators will be using data culled from a variety of sensors to assess the amount of power needed to operate these various pieces of equipment. The hope is that farmers can reduce their fuel consumption by utilizing tractors best suited for each job.

Funding for the project is provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture?s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative in the form of a four-year, $472,887 grant. To learn more about Nebraska?s tractor research, follow the link above.