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A GrainGrowers report, Fuels, Inputs of the Future, examines possible fuels for farm machinery and equipment in the future and cautions that interim technical solutions are needed to bridge the gap between traditional fuels and a sustainable future.

The report calls for the government to work with industry to remove barriers to non-traditional technologies to ensure agricultural industries are not disadvantaged during the transition period.

Advocacy and Rural Affairs Manager Sean Cole said tackling the emission issue would require cost reductions and improved efficiency of low-emission technologies.

"As the government moves towards a greener, secure energy future, it is critical that there is a coordinated and strategic approach for agriculture over this transition period."

"Government ambition must be aligned with practical availability and affordability of emerging technologies to avoid burdening growers with excessive financial costs. An agriculture-specific low emissions vehicle road map is required to allow a coordinated and strategic response to be developed," he said.

The report covers the grain industry's heavy reliance on diesel, which accounts for 85% of all on-farm energy use.

According to the report the grains industry is considered especially hard-to-abate, with production characterised by operating in rural and remote locations, with long operational cycles and with vehicles requiring high torque.

Mr Cole said the transition from diesel on farms represented a significant challenge for the grains sector.

"There is no simple solution, and the answer lies in a shift toward a combination of renewable fuels such as biofuels, green hydrogen and renewable electric power, taking into account availability, costs, infrastructure and technological advancements over time."

The report covers the current development of hydrogen technology, including farm hydrogen prototypes, battery electric vehicles, the development of bio and renewable fuels, and fuel-agnostic vehicles that are designed to be retrofitted as technological advances are implemented.

An analysis of the technology options available to growers highlights the projected costs and emission profiles of various fuels covering the period up to 2050.

Mr Cole said comparing running costs for a typical commercial-scale tractor over the period from 2024 to 2050 provided insight into the challenges facing grain growers.

"The analysis highlights the practical costs of emission reduction."

"If we look at the difference between current fossil-based energy sources and hydrogen, there is a large cost divergence. However, work is being undertaken in various countries to achieve low-cost green hydrogen production and to make its costs competitive with fossil fuels."

"Electric vehicles on the other hand are close to competitive against fossil fuel derived diesel, however farm technology is still under development and faces range and recharging challenges."

Mr Cole said biofuel presented another opportunity to bridge the gap between existing and emerging technologies.

"Although biofuel has a higher running cost base than fossil fuel diesel, it would deliver benefits through reduced exhaust emissions. Another advantage is that, unlike other technologies, minimal modifications are required to run existing farm or transport machinery on renewable biofuels."

The report – Fuels, Inputs of the Future – is available from the GrainGrowers website.