New Publication Illustrates Energy Used in Row Crop Production

AMES, Iowa – Each year, approximately three-fourths of Iowa’s farmland is planted with corn or soybeans. A new publication from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach shows the proportions of energy used to grow a typical corn or soybean crop in Iowa.

tanksEnergy Consumption for Row Crop Production” (PM 2089W) is available to download from the Extension Online Store,

“Due to the fact that so many Iowa farmers raise corn and soybeans, a quick review of the energy inputs used for row crops is helpful for managing farm energy expenses,” said Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer.

This publication gives an overview of annual energy consumption for corn and soybean production. Energy use typically falls under one of three categories: field operations, fertilizers and pesticides or artificial drying. For example, diesel fuel consumption is required to plant crops, but total consumption can be reduced with less aggressive tillage.

Nitrogen fertilizer application rates can be adjusted to meet the needs of the corn crop while avoiding excessive fertilizer application. Though chemical inputs such as fertilizer and pesticide are often considered an indirect energy expense for the farming operation, the manufacturing processes used to produce them require large amounts of energy.

For more tips on energy efficiency around the farmstead, visit or follow @ISU_Farm_Energy on Twitter.

The Farm Energy publications are part of a series of farm energy conservation and efficiency educational materials being developed through the ISU Farm Energy Initiative. The purpose is to increase farmers’ awareness of opportunities for improving efficient use of farm energy. The initiative also will help farmers and utility providers to explore opportunities to reduce farm energy demand and to improve overall profitability in a rapidly changing energy environment.

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