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Agritechnica 2013: Diesel Efficiency for Tomorrow

Agritechnica 2013: Diesel Efficiency for Tomorrow

13 November 2013

ANALYSIS - The topic of diesel efficiency has become an increasing focus for farmers in recent years, following earlier decades of concentrating on timely, high quality performance with modern machinery and equipment, heard delegates at Agritechnica 2013.

The discussion on diesel efficiency, which is still topical today, was triggered not only by rising fuel costs, but also by the environmental policy specifications for reducing exhaust gases that have been addressing mobile machinery too since the adoption of the EU Directive 97/68/EC in 1997.

Professor MeinelSince then, successful technical implementation of the emission reduction required by law and the additional optimising of engine management to reduce consumption have accounted for a large share of the research and development activities carried out by manufacturers of engines, tractors and self-propelled harvesting machinery.

Current findings show that simply optimising the internal combustion engine further will not be itself lead to substantial increases in diesel efficiency.

Speaking at Agritechnica, Professor Dr-Ing. Till Meinel, Managing Institute Director at the Institute for Agricultural Machinery Engineering and Renewable Energies, Cologne University of Applied Sciences said: "A holistic approach is expedient here, one that examines the question over a number of different stages, such as process optimising of the complete drive train, optimising the working processes within a machine, the overall machine, the machine system, and finally the complete agricultural production process.

"This fundamental idea is developed here with the aid of agricultural machinery developments that have won medals at Agritechnica this year.

"One example of successfully optimising the process of a drive train is the hybrid telescope from Merlo. According to the manufacturer, the electro-hybrid system implemented in this machine makes it possible to reduce the driving power of the diesel engine from ≥100 kW to 56 kW and, depending on the work cycle, to increase the diesel efficiency by up to 30 per cent.

"The use of such systems increases both drive efficiency and the process efficiency thanks to improved controllability and adjustability of the drive."

Professor Meinel presented what he feels are the greatest effects for improving diesel efficiency in the field of crop production:

Expedient structuring of crop rotation and use of herbicides: Farmers need to weigh up thoroughly whether short-term savings in diesel resulting from greater use of herbicides are justified when set against the long-term development of resistances. Combating weeds by appropriate crop rotation sequences and tillage reduces the risk of resistance against selective herbicides too.

In future, resistances will lead to more tillage and cultivation being required and to higher diesel consumption, unless new active agents become available at short notice. The inclusion of ploughs in the product portfolio of leading agricultural machinery manufacturers could already be interpreted as an indicator of such a development.

Efficient handling of Precision Farming data and maintenance of data security: The iGreen research project running over several years that was completed a few months ago created a network for standardised exchange of data and knowledge in agriculture.

"A consortium with 24 project partners from the fields of scientific research and the public sector came to the conclusion that open interfaces and data contents should be targeted, instead of proprietary island solutions. Cross-manufacturer communication in the machinery fleet represents a key module for holistic consideration of the agricultural value chain. The goal is to optimise the entire value chain instead of optimising local aspects," said Professor Meinel.

"The basic prerequisite for comprehensive use of the digital data collected in grand style today with a view to improving diesel efficiency is the confidence of farmers in the safety of their own data. Against the topical background of revelations concerning data abuse by international intelligence services, it is understandable if farmers express reservations about entrusting their commercially sensitive data to private-sector internet servers in the “Cloud”.

"There is substantial potential for improving diesel efficiency in the optimal pairing of tractor-implement combinations. With the aid of extensive data collections a research project implemented at the Technical University Berlin shows revealed over-motorising of up to 119 kW and under-motorising of up to 45 kW on a grain producing farm.

"These results should encourage farm managers as well as manufacturers of agricultural machinery to focus more strongly in future on providing needs-appropriate power for individual working processes.

"The use of satellite navigation forms the basis for further development and application of diesel-saving technologies, especially in crop production.

"Machinery and equipment for strip tillage combine the positive properties of direct drilling with intensive cultivation for plants in row crops. This results not only in a lower diesel consumption rates, but also in greatly improved erosion control."

Mr Meinel concluded: "The method can be applied individually and also combined. Many years of good experience have been reported from North America, where yields comparable to those using mulch drilling methods have been achieved with greatly reduced erosion.

"A number of machine-specific solutions for strip-till applications in Europe are on show at Agritechnica 2013.

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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