Energy Conservation & Energy Efficiency Project
in 2009 areca, with funding from Alberta Agriculture & alberta environment, launched the energy conservation and energy efficiency project. this project focuses on ways to improve fuel use on farms throughout alberta.
Producers throughout Alberta can reduce their fuel use and become more energy-efficient by...
- converting from conventional to zero-till practices
- operating energy-efficient equipment technologies
- adopting precision farming techniques and VRT for application of fertilizers
Agriculture is a major user of energy and conventionally tilled farms spend about 24% of their energy inputs on fuel and about 60% on fertilizer. Therefore, converting to zero-till practices will increase energy efficiency, energy conservation and profitability. Fuel savings from converting from conventional tillage to zero-tillage averages around 38% (across all crop rotations). During the period of 2001-2006 zero-till practices increased by 3.88 million acres and during the same time period diesel fuel consumption fell by 70.2 million liters. This led to decreased CO2 emissions and improved soil conservation.
To measure the energy-efficiency of farm equipment, fuel meters were distributed to producers to record fuel use for crop production, including seeding, tilling, spraying and harvesting. As well, the AgTech centre in Lethbridge is currently working on developing a carbon footprint calculator to determine the amount of energy required to produce a quantity of product.
To optimize energy inputs and crop outputs precision farming techniques are needed. Many producers may over-fertilize and go beyond the 1:1 marginal cost to marginal return ratio and the extra units of fertilizer applied costs more than earns. VRT and precision guidance systems control the rate of product being applied in order to optimize yields. As many producers already have guidance systems on their equipment, adding VRT may not be a big investment. Variable rate technology seems here to stay and as technology improves and becomes more affordable more producers will likely invest in this technology.
ARECA's goals and deliverables for this project include:
- extension events
- extension factsheets and articles (with a focus on energy savings and efficiencies)
- develop an on-line decision support tool to examine cost savings of energy efficiencies
- quantify the energy conservation of zero-till across Alberta on an annual basis
- provide an initial evaluation of the recurring co-benefits of zero-till