Crops > Machinery > Machinery Management

New publication helps farmers use data for tractor selection

AgDM Newsletter
September 2011

Eyeing a new tractor? Your fleet of farm equipment represents a significant capital investment, second only to land in many farm businesses. Likewise, tractor operations represent a significant portion of annual on-farm fuel costs. A new publication from Iowa State University Extension discusses tractor test data to consider when leasing or purchasing a tractor.

“Fuel Efficiency Factors for Tractor Selection” (PM 2089O) is available to download from the ISU Farm Energy Initiative at

"During the decision making process, tractor test data can be used to evaluate drawbar power and to estimate fuel consumption," said Mark Hanna, ISU Extension agricultural engineer. "For example, before purchasing a larger or heavier tractor, consider that at least seven percent of tractor power is commonly required just to overcome rolling resistance created by the tractor’s weight."

This publication illustrates the most relevant data that is available to estimate tractor fuel efficiency before purchasing a new tractor. Test measurements include drawbar load tests, lift capacity, hydraulic power and power and fuel use during power-take-off (PTO) operations. Tractor test data for tractors manufactured in the U.S. is available from the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory (NTTL) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"If you’re considering adding new equipment to your fleet before harvest begins, the tractor test data can help you compare newer and older models effectively," said Dana Petersen, ISU Extension program coordinator with ISU Farm Energy. "Seeking the best tractor to suit your operation can reduce costs by conserving fuel."

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. These publications address a variety of energy efficiency topics for farmers and raise awareness of on-farm energy conservation.

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


Dana Petersen, Farm Energy Conservation and Efficiency Initiative, 515-294-5233,
Mark Hanna, extension agricultural engineer, 515-294-0468,