A Fertilizer Resolution For 2012

New Year’s resolutions come in all different forms. Many people want to give something up: “I’m going to quit smoking.” Others vow to start doing something: “I’m going to give more money to charities.” Some promise to make a lifestyle change: “I’m going to get into better shape.”

Despite the personal motivation behind these intentions, most New Year’s resolutions will fail. Why? Poor planning. A poorly planned, vaguely defined mission is destined for failure. Take the example from above: “I’m going to give more money to charities.” How much money? To which charities? How frequently? The lack of a clear plan makes it unlikely that this resolution will be successful.

Taking The First Step  

So as we move into a new cropping season, how can growers and advisers ensure that their fertilizer goals for 2012 have the best chance for success? By managing plant nutrition according to the principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

4R Nutrient Stewardship is a holistic approach to nutrient management planning that considers economic, environmental and social dimensions of a sustainable agricultural system. At the core of the 4R approach is a simple concept — apply the right source of nutrient at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. What is right, however, will vary according to many factors including soil, climate, cropping system and management objectives; thus implementation of the appropriate combination of the four “rights” is knowledge-intensive and site-specific.

The first step in developing a 4R Nutrient Stewardship plan is to set sustainability goals for the farm or enterprise, which will include specific performance targets related to economic, environmental and social outcomes. The goals will be defined by the manager in partnership with stakeholders (i.e., agribusiness, consumers and the general public) who have an interest in the impacts of the enterprise. Setting priorities on long-term sustainability and stakeholder involvement distinguish a 4R stewardship plan from traditional nutrient management plans.

Next, the manager will gather needed production information to formulate and implement a plan consisting of the right practices for the enterprise. While stakeholders are needed to define the goals, managers are best equipped to choose the practices. While specific practices chosen will vary locally, the scientific principles that drive the decision-making process are the same globally.

For example, consider nitrogen (N) fertilizer timing for a spring-planted crop. Key scientific principles that would apply universally will include assessing dynamics of crop uptake and soil supply and determining nutrient loss risks. Once the manager has applied these principles to the information gathered for his enterprise such as crop type, soil characteristics, planting date, expected emergence date, weather conditions, etc., he can choose the right practice; pre-plant, at planting, in-season, or a split-application. It is important to remember when selecting practices that the 4Rs are interconnected and a balance of effort among them is appropriate. A decision regarding one of the four rights affects and is affected by the other three. In the timing decision, field conditions and N loss risks might have suggested that an in-season N application was most appropriate. But if the manager is using a controlled-release N source, then other timing options might be feasible as well. If the manager had been making pre-plant applications to this field, then making timing or source changes might result in a subsequent rate change as well since nutrient losses are being mitigated.

Considering the 4Rs as interconnected also helps avoid placing too much emphasis on one at the expense of overlooking the others. The 4R practices selected must work in synchrony with each other and with the surrounding cropping system and management environment.

The Final Step

Finally, performance indicators must be chosen to determine whether the practices selected were successful in achieving the objectives for the enterprise. Enterprise managers or advisers cannot select the most important performance indicator on their own. Stakeholder involvement is needed to identify the indicators that represent progress toward the sustainability goals considered important by all. No single or group of indicators can measure all of the impacts of fertilizer application. Stakeholders will select indicators related to issues of greatest concern. Some of these might include yield, water quality or working conditions. Managers will tend to focus on indicators that they are rewarded for like crop yield and quality, or profitability, which most enterprises depend upon for survival. Motivation for managers to recognize environmental and social aspects of performance can come through the establishment of reward mechanisms such as greenhouse gas emission and water quality credit trading programs, which various stakeholder groups such as regulatory policy makers and agronomic scientists can be instrumental in establishing.

As we move into the 2012 cropping season, don’t say, “I will do better with fertilizer management.” If this is the intention, then change your declaration to “I will do better with fertilizer management by developing a 4R Nutrient Stewardship plan that will:

•     Define sustainability goals for the enterprise important to the manager, adviser, and various other stakeholders.

•     Identify the right source-rate-time-place combination selected by the manager and adviser for the specific site based on established scientific principles and local considerations.

•     Document the success of the practices according to performance indicators selected by the stakeholders.”

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

FertilizerPhosphorus: Is Band Or Broadcast Application The Better Method?
February 3, 2016
Is band or broadcast application the better method when it comes to phosphorus? The answer to this question depends mostly Read More
Potash storage at Growmark
FertilizerThe Phosphate And Potash Outlook For 2016
February 2, 2016
Like other commodities, prices of the leading plant nutrient products dropped sharply in 2015. At this writing, the price of Read More
Young Corn Plants
FertilizerNutrient Considerations For Low Corn Prices
February 2, 2016
Corn prices are low and many producers are asking tough questions about their nutrient management programs. Here are some suggestions Read More
Granular urea from CF Industries urea plant in Donaldsonville, LA
FertilizerWhat’s In Store For Nitrogen In 2016
February 2, 2016
Supply is the overriding theme for the North American 2016 nitrogen outlook. In the last 12 months, global factors have Read More
Top 100 Articles
Elburn Cooperative
CropLife 100Elburn Cooperative Members Vote To Join CHS
December 28, 2015
With 81% of eligible producers voting, 94% cast an affirmative ballot for Elburn Cooperative, a diversified agricultural retailer based out Read More
West Central Cooperative, Jefferson, IA
CropLife 100Farmers Cooperative-West Central Merger Approved
December 21, 2015
The members of Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC), Ames, IA, and West Central Cooperative, Ralston, IA, have both approved the merger Read More
Wheat Growers Innovation Center, Bath, SD
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Opens Innovation Center
December 21, 2015
Wheat Growers’ commitment in providing its farmer-owners with the latest in technological advancements now has a one-of-a-kind focal point, as Read More
CropLife 100ARA Selects The Andersons As 2015 Retailer Of The Year
December 9, 2015
The Agricultural Retailers Association today named Maumee, OH-based The Andersons as its Retailer of the Year for 2015. The award Read More
CPS Washington Court House John Deere Sprayer
CropLife 100Application Equipment Report: It Is Easy Being Green For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 5, 2015
On The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog is famous for singing a song about the troubles he encounters in Read More
Fertilizer Bin
CropLife 100Fertilizer Sales: Another Down Year For Top 100 Ag Retailers
December 4, 2015
In pure number terms, the fertilizer category still dominates all crop inputs/services among CropLife 100 ag retailers. In 2015, for Read More
Latest News
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Submits New Bio-Fungicide For E…
February 9, 2016
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI) today announced that it has submitted a new biological fungicide (MBI-110) to EPA. The broad spectrum Read More
Crop InputsWeed Expert: Adding A Second Herbicide Not Always Easy
February 9, 2016
In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution Read More
Crop InputsGenetic Literacy Project: Farmers Need More Herbicide C…
February 9, 2016
There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on, writes Andrew Kniss for The Read More
HerbicidesWeed Expert Warns North Dakota Growers Of Coming Herbic…
February 9, 2016
Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop here exploring the future of ag production, Read More
HerbicidesWSSA Announces New, Updated Free Web Resources
February 9, 2016
Today the Weed Science Society of American (WSSA) announced that new and updated educational materials for both weed scientists and Read More
Soybean field
FungicidesFour Arysta Fungicide Formulations Given FIFRA Approval…
February 8, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the issuance of Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Section 2(ee) Recommendations for Read More
FungicidesAgri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus Receives EPA Registrat…
February 8, 2016
Vivid Life Sciences has announced the EPA registration of Agri-Fos Systemic Fungicide Plus, a highly concentrated active ingredient phosphite fungicide, Read More
Crop InputsBayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Valuable Insecticide F…
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, has announced it has refused a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Wins Seed Fraud Suit Against South Dakota Grow…
February 5, 2016
Syngenta has obtained a $25,000 settlement from Paul and John Mayclin, Mayclin Farms, Plankinton, SD, in response to their Plant Read More
ManagementOABA Annual Conference Wraps Up In Columbus
February 5, 2016
More than 300 Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) members and industry professionals were on hand to engage in collaborative learning and Read More
Crop InputsBayer To Contest EPA Flubendiamide Decision
February 5, 2016
Crop Science, a division of Bayer, announced today it has refused a request by EPA to voluntarily cancel the uses Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechNot So Fast: ChemChina Syngenta Takeover Could Draw Nat…
February 5, 2016
State-owned China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina), which plans to buy Swiss seeds and pesticide maker Syngenta, will promptly start preparations Read More
Rendering of Syngenta Seedcare Institute expansion
Seed/BiotechExpansion Of Syngenta’s North America Seedcare In…
February 4, 2016
As demand for seed treatment knowledge and products grows among farmers, retailers and others in the seed industry, Syngenta is Read More
Soybean Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Strengthens Sales Team
February 4, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced three new personnel additions: Jake Cook and Peter White are Territory Sales Managers for Read More
Davor Pisk Syngenta COO
Crop InputsSyngenta COO: Why ChemChina Offer Beat Monsanto’s
February 4, 2016
Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Pisk says he is confident the proposed acquisition by ChemChina will ultimately help preserve choice Read More
Young corn plants in soil
Crop InputsKoch Biological Solutions Invests In Pathway Biologic
February 4, 2016
An affiliate of Koch Biological Solutions, LLC has acquired a minority equity position in, and entered into collaboration with, Pathway Read More
Crop InputsABG: China Signs Off On Monsanto’s Roundup Ready …
February 3, 2016
Monsanto Co. on Wednesday announced it plans to launch its Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans in time for the 2016 Read More
Syngenta headquarters in Basel, Switzerland
Crop Inputs6 Things To Know About The ChemChina-Syngenta Deal
February 3, 2016
After months of rumors and speculation, Syngenta has announced that ChemChina has offered to acquire the Swiss-based company. “In making Read More