Machinery manufacturers working to reduce Emission, The Atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are among the primary culprits of climate change, according to USDA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Monitoring Laboratory reported global average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at a record high 414.72 parts per million in 2021. That is up almost 100 ppm from when the NOAA began recording in 1963. Nitrous oxide is a smaller contributor to overall GHG than carbon dioxide, but is 300 times more potent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Carbon sequestration in the soil gets lots of attention in the climate change discussion, but machinery manufacturers are also tackling sustainable agriculture with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the machinery level.
Among the foremost factors driving GHG emission reduction are EPA regulations. Currently, the EPA regulates emissions by requiring Tier 4 Final engines for off-highway, diesel-powered vehicles running between 174 and 750 hp. engines. Case IH was able to meet EPA regulations and also increase oil change intervals from 500 to 600 hours with its Tier 4 engines, says Mitch Kaiser, marketing manager for Stagier tractors at Case IH. The higher horsepower tractors with Tier 4 engines also can pull wider implements that cover more acres per hour, thus reducing fuel use to 1.5 gallons per acre. We also foster no-till planting with our planters, and we practice residue management to keep as much of the organic matter in the soil that we can and leave some of the residue on top,” says Kaiser. Some manufacturers tap sustainability through precision agriculture. AGCO’s targeted spraying will use artificial intelligence-based vision systems to determine the difference between crops and weeds, spraying only the weed with herbicide, says Eric Hansotia, AGCO president and CEO. Targeting just the weed reduces the amount of chemical applied. Targeting just the weed reduces the amount of chemical applied, in turn reducing chemical in the ground. In our precision ag business, all of those applications and automation to use less inputs are also about sustainability and less waste. John Deere’s See & Spray system operates similarly, reducing herbicide usage up to 77% while still hitting 98% of weeds in the field, according to the company’s 2021 sustainability report. These shifts for sustainability come with a cost, and manufacturers are aware many producers may be priced out of the latest innovations.
AGCO addresses this by offering retrofit solutions through Precision Planting, says Louisa Parker-Smith, director of global sustainability at AGCO. The Furrow Jet, for example, is a planter-mounted device that applies phosphorus right below the seed in the furrow rather than spraying the whole field, thus minimizing runoff and increasing input efficiency. Deere offers performance upgrades for planters going back to 2005 and sprayers to 2014, according to its sustainability report. Kits for older model years and additional equipment types are in development. This offering encourages sustainability through practice, as well as reducing the waste created by abandoning outdated equipment.
AGCO has developed a global climate risk assessment, looking at two extreme future scenarios for climate change. One is a world in which we sort of fail to curb the worst impacts of climate change, and global temperatures continue to increase severely,” says Parker-Smith. “The other extreme is that we see governments and international communities coming together, all bringing to bear whatever tools they have in their toolbox to push a rapid low-carbon transition. At the moment, we’re somewhere in the middle. Citing fossil fuels as one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, California regulations will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by the end of 2035, with diesel big rigs possibly following suit by 2040. “It would be the next significant step in accelerating towards a zero-emission transportation system,” the California Air Resources Board’s proposal says.
Our C tractor is running a Stage V engine, so we’re already looking at that for a number of small tractors,” says Kaiser. “We’re definitely looking at electric drives on smaller ones, looking at methane, looking at hydrogen — anything that can reduce the carbon footprint and use regenerative, naturally produced resources.” AGCO has a similar lineup of alternatively propelled vehicles in the works, with the all-electric Fendt e100 targeted for commercial launch before 2025. Battery technology is still in research; battery cost, size, weight, charge times, and horsepower limitations currently present a challenge. “Beyond 150 hp. we absolutely will need alternative technologies,” says Parker-Smith. “Hydrogen and biomethane are more likely to be the solution for larger machines
New Holland is working toward a carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative future, with the T6 Methane Power tractor set to hit the mass market in 2023. This tractor closes the loop on energy production and use, turning bio-waste from livestock into fuel. Mark Lowery, director of commercial marketing for New Holland, says farmers in states like California with access to infrastructure supporting methane-based fuel such as digesters are interested, but others are waiting to see the commercial availability of the fuel before jumping on board. Fuel accessibility is not the only infrastructure needed for sustainable agriculture. Precision agriculture is increasingly reliant on broadband connections, which can have sparse availability in rural areas.
ConectarAGRO is an industry consortium uniting AGCO, Bayer, CNH Industrial, Jacto, Nokia, Solinftec, TIM, and Trimble to bring connectivity to Brazilian farmers. Parker-Smith says this type of partnership may also apply to the future of renewable fuel accessibility. “This is where the industry, even competitors, comes together collaboratively to actually tackle those challenges as a sector,” says Parker-Smith. “I think for decarbonization, it’s exactly the same. We’re going to need a value chain approach where every partner needs to come in with their piece of the jigsaw puzzle to make the whole thing work.”
STRATEGIES TO CUT-OFF EMISSIONS WITH BIOFUELS BURNS IN NEW TRUCK ENGINES
Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the fuel falls short on one measure of reducing pollution from new truck engines – giving pause to regulators who support increased production. The state, the largest vehicle market in the country, has aggressively moved to curtail fossil fuel emissions from all vehicles while also encouraging production of renewable diesel, which is seen as key for reducing emissions in hard-to-electrify sources like trucking. The efforts are part of Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a rule designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel.
Heavy-duty vehicles are one of the largest contributors to NOx emissions – a precursor of ozone and particulate matter formation. Improved emissions control technology has helped NOx emissions fall by 60% between 1990 and 2019 nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Companies and regulators had previously purported that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10%, citing the results of earlier studies that examined the fuel’s performance in older engines.
But trucks with newer engines that ran renewable diesel did not meaningfully lower NOx emissions, according to the study. While these new technology diesel engines (NTDE) are present in only 43% of the state’s commercial vehicle registrations, they account for more than 75% of the miles traveled among the state’s heavy-duty fleet. “CARB threw caution to the wind and opened the door to renewable diesel’s unlimited use without having properly studied NOx emissions impact in NTDEs,” said Pat McDuff, chief executive officer at Glendale-based Fueling, in a public comment submitted in January. He urged regulators to reverse regulatory changes that prohibit his company from selling fuel additives meant to decrease NOx emissions in biodiesel.
The state is trying to bring 19 regions into compliance with air quality standards enacted in 2015. In two regions – the south coast and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin – CARB has targeted lowering NOx emissions as one way of improving air quality. In 2020 regulators adopted a new regulation to reduce NOx emissions 90% by 2027. Renewable diesel generally cuts greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, said Tristan Brown, associate professor of energy resource economics at SUNY and advisor on New York’s Climate Action Council. Brown noted most biodiesel blending in the United States is 20% or less. “The real question is what amount of NOx is emitted by NTDE engines at volumes of 10% and 20% biodiesel blend levels, and that is not reported by the study.
Future generations looking back on our carbon age will, of course, see a time of environmental hardship — but also a time of hope. The techniques and technologies do exist that can help manufacturers and design engineers to Minimize their impact on the environment. For design engineers, it is a matter of ensuring that the use of designs and materials are planned with their environmental impact in mind. This means identifying and verifying the accuracy of information about a material’s carbon footprint — and, to this end, using a reliable source of materials data is vital.