With fuel prices continuing to rise and oil selling for more than $106 per barrel, the farm diesel price has also reached record prices. These high prices are forcing all of us to take a good look at how we are using fuel, be it in the tractor or pickup truck. Here are some tips to consider that could help conserve fuel on your farm or ranch.

For a number of years, reduced tillage farming has been promoted, and now it is seriously being considered. Conservation tillage practices can be classified as no-till, strip or zone tillage, and ridge-till. Any time we can cut the number of trips across the field, obviously we will be saving fuel and time.

A relatively new technology, auto-steering, although a substantial investment, makes it easier to adopt controlled traffic. This will reduce compaction in the cropping zone, leading to higher yields and a technology worth considering.

Plan ahead of field operations so that the number of trips equipment is driven to and from fields is kept to a minimum. You might consider adding a carrier to the tractor for a small scooter to use in traveling to and from the field. Planning can also help one avoid unnecessary operations, so do not get out the chisel plow after harvest just so you can keep the farm hand busy. Combine field operations when possible.

Farm tractors are designed to be operated with additional weight or ballast when pulling heavy loads to prevent wheel slips. Insufficient ballast can cause excessive wheel slip and increased fuel consumption. Some slip is desirable to reduce the wear and tear on the drive train of the tractor, but it should be no more than about 10 percent for optimum efficiency.

Worn tires can cause poor traction and result in increased fuel consumption. Radial ply drive tires have more flex in the sidewall of the tire, which can increase traction when compared to size bias-ply tires. Tires with excessive wear should be replaced for best fuel efficiency. Check tire inflation, as over inflation causes excess slippage. Tire pressure should be checked once a week during times of heavy use.

Shut off diesel engines rather than letting them idle for long periods. New studies have shown that significant fuel savings can be realized by not idling diesel engines for more than 10 minutes. Just like with car models, tractors can vary on fuel efficiency. The University of Nebraska offers information on tractors and their fuel efficiency to help buyers make a decision between models. For information on tractors built since 1999, log onto http://tractortestlab.unl.edu.

Other maintenance tasks to help improve fuel efficiency include checking fuel injectors. If you see black smoke coming from the exhaust, use a fuel injector additive in the fuel for minor cleaning. Moreover, dirty air cleaners restrict the flow of air needed for the combustion process. Thus, dirty air filters will cause increased fuel consumption with less available power. Be sure to use the proper viscosity oil in the engine to maximize engine efficiency. Oils that are too thick decrease power and lubrication and also increase fuel consumption.

These are just a few of many things that can be done with farm equipment to improve fuel efficiency and help save money. It just takes a little planning and effort to help reduce those rising farm expenses.