The Rise Of The 4Rs

The concept of the perfect blend of production practices to maximize input efficiency, yields and environmental protection is hardly new. In fact, experts at the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) would trace its definition back some 20-plus years, developed through cooperation between the fertilizer industry and the scientific communities. But the idea has taken on new life over the past two years as The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) has expanded its implementation and outreach effort on the 4R initiative for fertilizer: Apply the Right Product at the Right Time at the Right Rate in the Right Place.

The current collaborative effort is the work of several organizations, including TFI, IPNI, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute (CFI) and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA). IPNI provides the lead reading the science of the 4Rs, says Lara Moody, director of stewardship programs at TFI, while TFI and CFI work closely with IPNI to take the lead on outreach.

An important part of the 4R program is www.nutrientstewardship.org, launched in March 2011. It contains a host of helpful production information and links, and it introduces the organizations — more than 40 at this point — that partner with TFI in outreach and implementation. For instance, partners can contribute news articles and information about their initiatives. The site is a central meeting place to demonstrate the collaboration of organizations who implement the 4Rs and spread the message on the benefits, explains Moody. It’s also the place dealers can sign up to receive the 4R Quarterly Newsletter, a publication already going to more than 1,000 believers.

Dealers On Board

The retailers we talked with have actually been implementing many of the concepts behind the 4Rs for years. Mike Twining, vice president of sales and marketing, Willard Agri-Service, Lynch, MD, notes company founder De Willard’s original focus on liquid fertilizers that could be custom blended field-by-field based on soil tests still drives the firm’s thought processes 40 years later.

In 2009 the 4R concept “intrigued” Mike Wilson, agronomist with Wabash Valley Service Co., Grayville, IL, because it stated what his firm had been working toward since 1994 — using all the tools (soil testing, tissue testing, yield and planting data, soil type, etc.) available to decide on an appropriate course of action for a fertilizer prescription, be it soil- or foliar-applied.

And while the 4R concept may be simple, implementing the systems needed to practice it can be challenging and costly. For instance, Wabash Valley has created two departments within the company to deal with the challenges: an Agronomy Services Division offers the services needed to assess field needs and prescribe solutions, while a Specialty Products Division evaluates different products, both soil and foliar, to see if and where they fit in a total nutrient program. The company has made a substantial investment in people and equipment to help customers adapt. And shifting to a 4R mindset has meant a change in some employees’ and growers’ ways of thinking — for instance, in moving from one or two nutrient applications per year to spreading them out through the growing season, says Wilson. “Luckily, added yield and profitability has followed many of these practices,” he adds.

Willard Agri-Services has invested resources to create the HighQ decision support system which helps a grower evaluate the productivity of the fields, then staff “discuss rate, source, placement and timing of his plant food,” says Twining.

“Growers intuitively understand the 4Rs,” he adds. “It gets to the heart of helping them manage their economic and ecologic decisions, which we believe go hand in hand. We now articulate this as a focus both on a grower’s yield and his footprint.”

Cooperative Producers Inc. (CPI) has brought in the technologies to offer grid soil sampling, variable rate application, split application of fertilizers, nitrogen stabilizers, soil moisture profile monitoring and other fertilizer efficiency enhancement practices. In 2011, the company rolled out a new precision agriculture program called CPI300 to help drive the decisions necessary to fully tap both seed and soil potential. CPI Agronomist Harlan Schafer says the additional financial investment was reasonable and added marketable value to CPI’s services.

To promote 4R practices, Crop Pro­duction Services (CPS), Delphi, IN, has gone as far as to help customers update their planters with the technology it takes to deliver in-furrow pop-up fertilizers, extremely efficient products applied at just two gallons per acre. And in a cost-share program with growers, CPS will help install and implement complete fertilizer delivery systems on customer’s planters in conjunction with Sure-Fire Ag Systems, Atwood, KS.

CPS’ recent work with manure fertilizer shows how a company can tailor its 4R recommendations to local conditions and resources, says Nick Sommers, crop consultant. His location is in the heart of swine processing country. When growers use manure available there, CPS makes sure they receive adequate credit for this nutrient source, plus the firm offers a fertilizer catalyst called Accomplish LM that increases manure nitrogen, phosphate and potassium efficiency.

Great Timing

Ever more finely tuned fertilizer programs couldn’t come at a better — or more important — time. For one, crop prices continue to be strong, and growers are seeking advice on how to get maximum yields from wise fertilizer use. Secondly, input prices continue to be volatile, often trending high, and customers want maximum return on their fertilizer investments.

Third, communities are scrutinizing agriculture’s environmental impact more closely than ever and promoting the immensely positive 4R message here is critical.

CPI’s Schafer first heard about the 4R initiative at the same time he was working with local Natural Resource Districts (NRDs) and community wellhead protection areas as they considered new regulations on fertilizer application in Nebraska. “4R Nutrient Stewardship was the right message at the right time to help describe our company’s commitment to stewardship,” he says. It resonated with all stakeholders. “The 4R goals do not place environmental stewardship and farm profitability in opposite camps, it is truly a win-win.”

Doug Busdeker, senior manager of Northern Farm Centers with The Andersons Inc., Maumee, OH, describes another situation. Water quality in Lake Erie has gotten a lot of attention as a result of an algal bloom in 2011, and research shows an excess of phosphorus in the lake due to many factors — agriculture, sewage treatment and industrial waste, among others. “If past agricultural practices are contributing to the problem it seems prudent that we should help find the solutions,” says Busdeker. “The Andersons has a strategy to grow our precision program utilizing GIS-based variable-rate technology ensuring nutrients are 4R-consistent.” The move requires an investment in technology, people and field equipment.

The company is also working with partners in industry, government and environmental groups to find solutions to the lake problem and has provided financial and staffing resources to support research, to work with and educate its customers on best products and practices and to actively participate in the formulation of new policies.

Getting Growers On Board

Not all growers are familiar with — or may embrace — 4R systems. CPS’ Sommers recommends retailers take “baby steps” with some customers. “There are so many things we can do, we can overwhelm growers,” he notes. He suggests picking one practice and starting to implement it at a “base level.” The key is to remain professional and responsible, making sure an approach is good for both the farmer and the dealer.

Growers grasp 4R concepts very quickly, says Schafer, but when it involves practices and expenses new to them, as with any innovation, there is an adoption curve. “Our agronomy sales people and our company really emphasize placing the right product on the field, even if that means selling less or adapting our delivery methods,” says Schafer. “Once our customers recognize that commitment, I think they also recognize the difference between CPI and our competitors.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “The Rise Of The 4Rs

Fertilizer Stories

Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to the Field
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Corn-Irrigation
Crop InputsNitrogen: Why More Later May Be Better
August 2, 2017
The fact that new corn hybrids require an ever-increasing yield potential, and therefore a growing appetite for nitrogen and other Read More
Darin Lickfeldt Verdesian In Field
Crop InputsVerdesian: Sustainability Goes Hand in Hand with Profits
July 25, 2017
Sustainability is a hot topic in agriculture these days. And while measuring sustainability and its on-farm impact can seem difficult Read More
Soil soybean closeup
FertilizerThe 4Rs and Potassium
July 17, 2017
Are we meeting crop K needs? Using the 4R nutrient stewardship approach of selecting the right source at the right Read More
Trending Articles
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Cause of Gar Tootelian Fire Under Investigation
August 7, 2017
Over one hundred firefighters and equipment responded to a four-alarm shop fire at the Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) facility in Read More
Rob Versprille
ManagementCeres Solutions, North Central Co-op Merger to Bring New Opportunities for Indiana, Michigan Farmers
August 1, 2017
More than 40,000 customers and almost 9,000 Indiana and Michigan farmers will begin doing business with the new Ceres Solutions Read More
CPS-Norwood-and-Dupont-reps
Eric SfiligojA Message to Ag Retailers: Do Tell Your Good Stories
July 26, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance ag Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow’s Tim Hassinger Named President, CEO of Lindsay Corp.
July 24, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Latest News
RoGator RG1300B AGCO
EquipmentAGCO Opens Nominations for 12th Annual Operator of the …
August 18, 2017
AGCO Corp. has announced the opening of nominations for AGCO Application Equipment’s 12th Annual Operator of the Year. The award Read More
ManagementTravels, Mergers, and CropLife 100 Updates
August 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips they’ve taken, the latest news on market consolidation, and the 2017 Read More
Corn Seed
Seed/BiotechSeed Innovations Benefit All of the Seed Industry
August 17, 2017
Innovations from throughout the seed industry help address many of the economic, environmental and health issues we face as a Read More
SpreadersGVM to Introduce New Prowler at MAGIE
August 17, 2017
The newest Prowler in GVM’s line-up will be introduced next week at the Midwest Ag Industries Expo (MAGIE), August 23 Read More
AcreEdge bag
Seed/BiotechLandus Cooperative’s AcreEdge Seed Brand Gears Up for 2…
August 17, 2017
Growers in more than 26 Iowa and Minnesota counties are seeing field signs with a new brand name at end Read More
Engenia soybeans
ManagementCorn and Soybean Yield Forecasts Larger than Expected
August 17, 2017
The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels Read More
ManagementU.S. Ag Secretary Introduces SCORE
August 17, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a new agreement to support new and beginning farmers. On August 5, Perdue joined Read More
CHS-FFA-Minnesota
CropLife 100CHS and FFA: A Homerun Partnership
August 17, 2017
CHS hosted the Minnesota FFA for its annual FFA night at CHS Field. FFA students, educators and CHS leadership enjoyed Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Gar Tootelian Foundation Donates Half Million Dollars t…
August 16, 2017
Students at Immanuel Elementary are looking forward to the first day of school for two reasons this year. One, they Read More
Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fi…
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Top 10 Crop Protection Companies, Post-Mega Mergers
August 14, 2017
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. In fact, some prominent celebrities such as David Letterman spent much of their Read More
ManagementThe DuPont-Granular Deal, Dicamba Update, and Upcoming …
August 11, 2017
Matthew Grassi joins Paul Schrimpf for the second week in a row to talk about DuPont’s acquisition of Granular, as Read More
Soybeans weeds
HerbicidesOngoing Evaluation Key to Controlling Weeds, Improving …
August 10, 2017
As the sun bears down on record U.S. soybean acres this August, farmers keep their eyes on their fields to Read More
Young Corn Plants
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Offers Novel Product to Battle Pythium, O…
August 10, 2017
After a season plagued by seedling diseases caused by cool, wet soils at planting, farmers have a new option to Read More
Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to …
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality…
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Natives-First-Purple_Prairie_Clover
Seed/BiotechLa Crosse Seed Continues Focus on Soil and Water Conser…
August 9, 2017
La Crosse Seed is doing its part to lead communication to ag retailers across the country on the importance of Read More
HerbicidesAg Secretary Perdue Comments on Dicamba Issue
August 9, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a Read More