USDA Revises Nutrient Management Standard

4R Nutrient Stewardship diagram

TFI Fertilizer Institute (TFI) commends the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for embracing 4R nutrient stewardship (the right nutrient source at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place) at the national level with its December 13 release of the national conservation practice standard for nutrient management.

“We are extremely pleased with USDA/NRCS’ call for 4R nutrient stewardship as part of a sustainable agricultural system,” said TFI President Ford West. “Agriculture is being asked to maintain profitable farm economics, while meeting the increased product demands of a growing population and responding to increased scrutiny of land and resource management and the 4R’s are key to addressing challenge.”

4R Nutrient Stewardship is an innovative and science-based approach to fertilizer best management practices (BMPs) to help achieve agricultural sustainability. The 4Rs imply there are four aspects to every fertilizer application and it provides a simple framework to assess whether a given crop has access to the necessary nutrients. Asking “Was the crop given the right source at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place?” helps identify opportunities to improve fertilizer efficiency and prevent nutrient movement from each field. The four aspects of this system for fertilizer management are interconnected, and none of the four can be right when any one of them is wrong.

Over the past year, TFI has been working with the NRCS to provide input on their revision of this important standard.  The nutrient management standard is an important tool in the NRCS conservation toolbox. The agency’s staff uses this conservation practice to help farmers and ranchers apply their nutrients more efficiently. With the standard as a base, NRCS will offer voluntary technical and financial assistance to producers nationwide for planning and implementing on-farm nutrient management plans. Farmers can use this assistance to help meet federal, state, tribal and local environmental regulations. NRCS state offices now have until Jan. 1, 2013, to comply with erosion, nitrogen and phosphorus criteria for their state nutrient management standard.

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