Machinery Chatter

New UNL Research Advancing Tractor Testing Procedures

Russ Quinn
By  Russ Quinn , DTN Staff Reporter
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Nebraska and its people have always shown an independent streak.

For immigrants coming to a new world, these people settled in an area that included what was once called "The Great American Desert."

This would include my own ancestors, who mostly came from Ireland but also a few who came from Germany and Czechoslovakia. These hardscrabble folks traveled halfway around the world, settled here roughly 150 years ago and began to farm -- just as the Nebraska Territory became the state of Nebraska.

The state of Nebraska broke away from traditional state government systems in the 1930s and adopted a unicameral legislative body in which members are nonpartisan. No other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body.

The state also boasts the only complete tractor test laboratory of its kind in the nation. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Tractor Test Laboratory is located on the East Campus of UNL and is the official designated tractor testing station for the U.S.

The lab came about because Wilmot Crozier, a farmer and legislator from Osceola in Polk County, bought a Ford 8-16 tractor in 1919. Not actually made by Henry Ford, this tractor didn't live up to its advertised claim. Because of that, Crozier and fellow state senator Charles Warner pushed for and passed the Nebraska Tractor Test Law in 1919. This established a facility at UNL the next year for tractor testing to ensure that tractor manufacturers met their advertised claims of tractor performance.

Because of this unique lab, farmers for nearly 100 years have been assured the tractor they thought they were buying was indeed the tractor they purchased. While this may seem less important today, back then I imagine this was a big deal with the large number of manufacturers.

A new research project at UNL is helping to bring the testing procedures at the lab into a new era, according to a recent UNL news release.

The project is part of a four-year, $472,887 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The research will occur at UNL's Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead and at the lab whose oval track has completed 2,000 tests since 1920.

While tractor technology has changed rapidly over the years, the testing techniques used on tractors have not changed much in several decades, according to Santosh Pitla, project lead and assistant professor in biological systems engineering at UNL.

In the past, tractors would only use one type of power (power takeoff, hydraulic and drawbar) at a time. Today's tractors use a combination of all three simultaneously. Currently, tractor testing only looks at the drawbar. The new research will focus on a mixed mode of testing so all three forms of power can be evaluated at the same time.

"The university is uniquely positioned to conduct this research because of our Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory," Pitla said. "We're the only facility of our kind capable of testing the largest tractors, and the only facility in the Western Hemisphere."

For this project, various sensors and data-logging devices will be placed on tractors while they are pulling an implement. This data will help researchers gather fuel-rate, engine-load and hydraulic-power data.

The researchers will use this data to assess what kind of power is needed for different implements. The data collected from the mixed-mode testing could support manufacturers in their efforts to design more efficient engines.

Other researchers involved in the project include Roger Hoy, director of the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory; Joe Luck, associate professor in biological systems engineering; and Rodney Rohrer, research engineer at the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory.

To read the entire UNL press release, visit: https://news.unl.edu/….

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

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