Farmer Iron

A Big Change is Coming

The engines that power the most efficient farm equipment are undergoing tremendous change.

When you look at a calendar, 2011 seems a long way off. However, a design engineer in a farm equipment company measures time a little differently, since creating new products can take years. That means keeping up with changing market requirements calls for planning years in advance of the change.

Years ago, rules were put into action to severely tighten up the emissions allowed from diesel engines. It starts in the on-highway world, where diesel trucks and cars start out; but eventually it's moving off-highway too.

Already, we've seen significant changes, but they don't make the engines look that much different. 2011 looms. That's when, for higher-horsepower engines (which you rely on more every year) must meet what the industry calls interim Tier 4 standards. This is a significant reduction in particulates and nitrous oxide.

Yet three years after that in 2014, final Tier 4 rules go into effect. The emissions from those engines are so low that some have claimed the air coming out the exhaust may be cleaner than what goes in (not exactly true, but you get the idea of how significant the change may be).

In that interim Tier 4 stage, which I've touched on in the past, you'll see on significant external change in most cases - the diesel particulate filter. These big-canister add-ons to new diesel engines aren't simply tin cans added for show. They represent a sophisticated solution that is self-cleaning; and traps most of the stuff coming out the exhaust.

That filter is connected to an engine whose innards are so different from your father's (or mother's) diesel engine that even Rudolf Diesel himself might not recognize it - except right at the injection point. The fuel delivery in these new engines works at pressures we wouldn't have considered realistic 20 years ago, and the use of computerized injection to shape combustion in the cylinder head is ingenius.

However, Tier 3 engines are already using those engine-based innovations, including exhaust gas recirculation to reduce emissions. The interim Tier 4 engines, in many cases, add that particulate filter - called by many the DPF - to trap bad stuff trying to get out of your engine into the atmosphere.

I know that one manufacturer is already pushing ahead with technology that could also easily be part of all final Tier 4 engines in the future - selective catalytic reduction - which requires a fuel additive to enhance exhaust purity (but that's for another blog).

I would ask one big question of you. Help me, help you understand this big change to new equipment. What questions do you have about these tools? You can respond in comments to this blog; or send me an e-mail at [email protected]. While I can surmise that you're worried about cost, and perhaps durability, I don't want to assume your knowledge level and miss something in how we cover what can be a very complicated topic.

A blog is an interactive way to keep ideas flowing. Registered users who are signed in can see the comment box at the end. If you're not registered, click "Register" above and in a couple of moments you can join the conversation. We want to hear from you.


Looking for help in planning for 2010? We've got just the Webinar for you. Consider joining us at Noon, Central time, Monday Nov. 30 for a discussion with Bryce Knorr, senior editor Farm Futures and Tax Expert Darrell Dunteman. You can just listen from your computer - but you need to sign up to make it happen. Visit Webinar Signup and plan to join us. We'll "hear" you there.

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