Opinion: New fuel could make the air turn blue

The loader tractor is coming up to five years old and it’s time to start looking for a replacement.

Hunting for a new tractor is always fun – I have a long list of features that are essential: good speakers (three-way, mounted in rigid headlining), shallow-angle steps (for frequent getting in and out) and good visibility (it is the loader tractor, after all). This year, the list has had a bit of a shake-up. At number one, booting all the others down a place, is this: one fuel tank.

I’m struggling with the AdBlue concept. I really resent the idea of having to buy a whole new fuelling system. After all, we changed ours in 1978, when a gale blew the pipe off the old fuel stand, opening the flip-over valve and draining the tank. We put a stop-cock on.

We changed again in the late eighties, when the Ford 7910 arrived. Its filler cap was too high for the last third of the gravity-powered tank, so another layer of hollow blocks went in. And when the single-skinned steel tank started looking a bit iffy, up went a smart, plastic, double-skinned one. Finally, when thieves (yes, we all know who they are) started looting the countryside, that one went, and a new indoor electric set-up arrived, safely tucked away behind locked doors and alarms.

If the next tractor is an AdBlue tractor, I’ll need to invest in a whole extra fuelling system. Another tank will be needed. It’ll probably need a dispensing pump – after 20 years of a bad back, I know damn well that the quickest route to the physio’s bench is hauling 20-litre drums around. I’ve been reading up on the dire warnings of using old cans and drums to do the transferring. The slightest contaminant to your AdBlue will knacker everything and none of it will be covered by warranty and it’ll be illegal, so there.

Thirty years ago, filling the combine meant a dozen five-gallon Add-F drums, a sturdy ladder and a steady hand. A modern AdBlue combine will take us back to those days – or a separate, brand new bowser. And thanks to the warnings about contaminants, I’ll have to get home, have a shower after greasing up, put on surgical gown and gloves, and then fill the AdBlue tank.

Perhaps the biggest worry about the AdBlue will be our insurance premiums. Why should rural crooks risk their liberty by clambering under vehicles to steal catalytic converters in crowded car parks when the countryside will be full of tractors and combines with side-mounted exhaust pipes, chock full of valuable metals. Prepare for a flood of claims.

I’m fighting the inevitable, of course. The latest tier in diesel engine management is almost completely here, cleaning the air while creating new jobs for bowser makers everywhere. But there are a few tractors for sale still running on the one-tank system.

John Deere recently ran adverts for tractors pointing out quite specifically that they were single-fuelled, a refreshing and slightly politically incorrect change from the gushing praise of AdBlue that clutters up most tractor brochures. However, Deere also now plans to move to AdBlue soon.

So my hunt goes on. Will I have to choose a tractor that fails in the other crucial departments just to ensure I can soldier on with only diesel? Perhaps I’ll have to resort to second-hand, but you can never trust the previous owner. He might only have two-way speakers in. And that would never do.

Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire.

What do you think about this topic? Have your say on our website forums.

See more