The Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory got its start in 1919 when a member of the Nebraska Legislature, who also happened to be a farmer, became concerned about some of the performance claims being made by manufacturers.

William Crozier, the legislator, probably never dreamed that the facility he started would one day be testing the fuel efficiency of tractors. But then Crozier could not have imagined how much larger and infinitely more complicated tractors would become over the intervening 87 years.

Crozier just wanted an independent testing facility that would encourage the manufacture and sale of high quality and reliable tractors. The rest, as they say, has been gravy.

“Back then there were probably 300 to 400 tractor manufacturers — some of them little more than blacksmith shops,” says Leonard L. Bashford, professor of agricultural engineering and the current director of the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory.

Prove it

“The law that created the Laboratory says that if you're going to advertise performance claims, you have to be able to prove them. If you say a tractor has a 200-horsepower PTO, and it tests to be 199.9, the tractor will not pass. It has to meet the claims, or it can't be sold in Nebraska.”

That's why John Deere recently tested an 8430 Tractor, rated at 250-PTO hp, at the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab to independently verify what its own instrumentation was showing to be exceptional fuel efficiency, power and performance.

The Laboratory reported record-setting results for fuel efficiency on the 8430 Tractor, which was equipped with Deere's new Automatic Powershift Transmission (PST) for power produced to fuel consumed.

“These are exceptional results,” says Cory Reed, manager factory marketing at John Deere's Waterloo Works, where Bashford spoke at a Deere media event. “The new 8430 Tractor, as tested, delivered an 8.8 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared to the very competitive and similar horsepower 8520 Tractor it replaced.

Most efficient

“The improvements made to the 8430 Tractor make it the most fuel efficient row crop tractor ever tested in the Nebraska Test Lab.”

Reed said the 8430 was equipped with an Automatic Powershift Transmission and tested at 100 percent PTO load at rated engine speed, achieving a record result of 18.65 hp-hour/gallon. Previously, the 8520 Tractor with the same equipment had test results of 17.13 hp-hour/gallon.

“This 8.8-percent improvement is now the benchmark for tractor fuel efficiency performance in a row crop tractor,” said Reed.

“It's like miles per gallon,” said Brian Arnston of the marketing department at the John Deere Waterloo Works. “The bigger the number the better.”

Arnston said Deere attributes the test results for the 8430 to the integrated technology and design from Deere's Product Engineering Center in Waterloo. Members of the agricultural media became some of the first non-Deere personnel to tour the PEC.

Precise control

“Starting with the PowerTech Plus 9.0L engine with Variable Geometry Turbo, cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation and the more powerful, cleaner-burning design, we saw improved fuel consumption results just with the engine,” said Reed. “When we added a new Vari-Cool system with precise control for fan speed and air flow and the Automatic Powershift with its excellent ability to transfer power, the total integrated package worked together for even more fuel efficiency.”

The fuel consumption measurement, hp-hour/gallon, has become the standard used for making a comparison of efficiency between all agricultural tractor models. Measured directly, it means that burning one gallon of fuel in the tractor at full load and at rated engine speed produces a certain amount of horsepower for an hour.

“We expect fuel efficiency improvements on our complete line of 8030 Series tractors,” says Reed. The official Nebraska Tractor Test Lab testing continues on the other 8030 Series models this fall. We anticipate those results will be published later this year.”