Fuel saving strategies

About one third of the total energy consumption needed in agriculture is spent on fuel, so introducing fuel saving measures can play a significant part in reducing input costs and improving farm profitability. 

What affects fuel usage?

The crop being grown

for example sugar beet and potatoes use a lot more fuel compared to cereals. For grassland the crucial factor is the number of silage cuts removed. For fruit and viticulture fuel consumption is quite high due to the number of cutting processes.

Farm size

this has a strong influence on fuel consumption. Apart from the crop being grown, farm size is the most decisive factor in fuel consumption.

Fuel proportion of tractor costs

Diesel represents more than one third of total tractor costs. This does depend on the diesel price though.

Energy flow of the tractor

This incorporates the traction power, torque and hydraulic power of the tractor. A lot of the used energy is lost, potentially in the form of cooling or exhaust gases, and slipping and rolling resistance losses in transmission.

Fuel consumption for different agricultural works

There are significant differences due to varying power requirements. There are also variations due to site conditions, e.g. soil type, condition, and moisture level, working speed, machine type and maintenance level and driver characteristics.

It is possible to achieve variations of more than 50% in relation to the average values stated for different cultivations

Working process Fuel consumption (l/ha) Comments (width / depth of operation)
Average value Variation
Stubble processing  9.1  5-18  3-6m
Disc Harrow  10  7.2-12  3-6m

Spade rotary harrow




Soil loosening



 35-38cm deep




 18-30cm deep



 Up to 20


Rotary harrow solo








Rotary tiller and drilling machine




Universal drilling machine




Chemical fertilisation



 12 to 24m

Plant protection


 0.75 - 3.4

 12 to 24m

Harvester cereals



5 and 6 shaker (110 to 275 PS)

Harvester rape



Transport of cereals



 12 to 18t

Table source: "Strategies for saving fuel with tractors" Efficient 20 project, IEE/09/764/SI2.558250

Actual situation of fuel consumption

It is important to measure the fuel consumption of the different tasks completed on farm. By comparing the actual values with standards you can find starting points to reduce fuel usage.

Click here to download the table of standard values for different cultivation activities.

What are the different ways to measure actual fuel consumption?

1. Measuring the actual use at the filling station. Fill the tank up before and after each work task. The actual use is recorded along with a description of the task. This may be unreliable, or cause problems due to air bubbles in the tank. This method is only advisable for longer works with a minimum of a quarter of the tank.

2. Refitting the measuring equipment. These systems take the data from the CAN-bus tractor control system and can show the exact fuel consumption for different tasks. With this method it is possible to document the actual consumption, the average consumption and the total consumption after the work, allowing you to calculate the load on the motor. Comparative tests have shown that the accuracy of different systems has not always been great. However the consumptive trends are consistent - if fuel use rises, the indication on the measuring equipment will rise also. It also has the benefit that the driver can look at the display and realise the effect of his driving style on the fuel consumption.

3. Fuel consumption measurements at the tractor terminal. For most of the modern high performance tractors, a reliable measuring system for fuel consumption is part of the standard equipment. If this is the case, the consumption is shown at the tractor terminal. The actual, average, and total rates of consumption can be seen, and it can again be easily identified how the fuel consumption is being affected by the driving style

Source: Adapted from Efficient 20 Fuel Saving Measures - Training Handbook IEE/09/764/SI2.558250



EFFICIENT 20 is a European funded initiative to help farmers and foresters to reduce their fuel usage by 20%. Fuel use in farming machinery represents more than 50% of the energy consumed in agriculture, so introducing fuel saving measures brings significant cost savings to farming businesses.

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Energy Management

Did you know?

  • A 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales
  • On most farms, savings of 10-20% of energy costs can often be made with minimal capital outlay
  • Heating, field operations, ventilation, lighting, air circulation and refrigeration equipment are the biggest energy users in agriculture, where efficiency improvements can provide the most significant savings
  • Dairy farms account for the highest overall energy cost per farm type, with energy costs representing 2% of all costs (2010, CALU)
  • The UK is the worst energy waster in Europe

How can being energy efficient help my business?

  • Energy costs may only be a small percentage of turnover, but reducing them can increase profits and competitiveness
  • It can help reduce your carbon footprint
  • It can help demonstrate the business's green credentials, a requirement now from many product buyers
  • For more advice on how to become energy efficient on your farm, register for a Resource Efficiency for Farmers visit

Useful tools

Interested in how much energy you are using? Head to the Carbon Trust website and download the interactive tool that will help you identify the key actions that you can undertake at your site to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Interested in fuel saving strategies?
Click here to go to the Efficient 20 fuel consumption database a tool for monitoring your fuel usage and see the effects of applying some of the fuel-saving techniques.

To download a guide on how to use the database click here.

The importance of monitoring energy usage

In order to look at reducing energy use on-farm, it is important to first know how much you are using. Energy efficiency can be an important step in reducing costs on-farm, and can be achieved relatively simply in many situations. A recent report looking at resource management practices on farms in the south west found that 68% of farms surveyed were monitoring energy efficiency, and 31% were not monitoring energy usage. The graph below shows the breakdown per farm type.

Monitoring energy efficiency by farm type

whole farm efficiency
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