Sustainability In Agriculture: The Right Place & Right Time

4R Nutrient Stewardship diagram

There’s something to be said about being at the right place and the right time. Now fertilizer retailers can add right rate and right source to that old adage. The 4Rs refers to the right place, time, rate and source. And Nick Sommers, a crop consultant with Crop Production Services (CPS) in Delphi, IN, says the advantage to the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program is that it provides an outline for retailers to use as a self review to see if there are any areas “up for improvement.”

The 4R philosophy revolves around the premise that four aspects of fertilizer management are interconnected and none of the four can be right when any one of them is wrong. Soil conditions, cropping systems, management techniques and climate all play into the scientific principles of 4R:

“It is nice to have the chance to be a part of a start up program that is being proactive in telling the story of American agriculture,” says Sommers. “I think 4R gives us a checklist to see what we can do to grow those aspects of our business that are promoting nutrient stewardship, thanks to the direction of the Institute.”

The Institute Sommers is referring to is The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the industry voice that represents the public policy, communication and statistical needs of producers, importers, wholesalers and retailers. TFI is working collaboratively with the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, the International Fertilizer Industry Association and the International Plant Nutrition Institute in making the awareness and adoption of 4R a top priority.

“I know TFI and the 4R program is filling a void that we have had — the advocacy portion,” explains Sommers. “I think that’s probably the biggest advantage to this program. It’s not so much the technology that’s offered, but that it’s bringing it all together as one so we can present it to our consumers and the public in the fashion that says: ‘Hey look at what we can do. We are environmental stewards here, stewards of the land and we’re members of your community.’”

The Retailers’ Role

Kathy Mathers, TFI’s vice president of public affairs, says she’s thrilled to hear that retailers are helping growers meet not only their economic and social goals, but that they are doing it in a way to address environmental issues that may be specific within their region. One of the ways TFI is recognizing the adoption of the program is with its 4R Advocate Award Program.

Launched last fall, this grower recognition program rewards agricultural retailers and producers who are leading the way in implementing the 4R system. Sommers nominated one of its CPS’ grower-customers, Todd Welch. Welch manages a 2,300-acre corn, wheat and soybean farm and a 25,000 hog operation.

The award program is just one component of TFI’s larger rollout of the 4R system. The organization is educating members and growers about the 4Rs at agricultural trade shows, member company visits and other 4R speaking engagements.

Retailers can also look to the Web­site called www.nutrientstewardship.com, which serves to introduce the 4R concept to help educate their customers. A brochure titled “Implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship on the Farm Right Now” is available as a PDF at the Website or hard copies can be shipped by contacting the TFI office in Washington, DC.

“One of our primary goals in setting up the 4R program was to offer a support system for retailers and their customers that would assist them in increasing their production and profitability,” says Mathers, “all while keeping a close watch on that environmental component.”

Protecting the environment is key in the 4R system and Mathers says the fertilizer industry is taking a proactive stance in its use of nutrients. Before the 4R Nutrient Ste­wardship program can be implemented, it requires the use of best management practices (BMPs). BMPs optimize fertilizer use, says Mathers. She explains that the challenge for many ag retailers is to match nutrient supply with crop requirements and to minimize nutrient losses from fields. BMPs chosen for a given farm are dependent on local soil and climatic conditions, crop, management conditions and other site specific factors.

“Pressure to limit the use of fertilizers is increasing,” she explains. “Legislative, regulatory and non-government organization activities, including legal action pertaining to nutrients in the environment, are taking place on national, regional, state and local levels,” Mathers says, citing that one such example includes federal government and environmental groups asking for additional regulations and pollution reduction strategies. These include reductions, and potentially, bans on nutrient applications.

Playing A Bigger Role

The stress of population growth is another reason why ag retailers should promote the 4P program. Case in point: The global population is on track to increase by more than two billion people in the next 40 years. With that comes the indication that agricultural production needs to double by 2050.

Industry experts agree that increased production of food, fiber and fuel will only be achieved by intensified production and not through expansion of an arable land base. Genetic and biotech seed industries have predicted yield increases of 3% to 4% per year. However, to optimize the yields of advanced seeds, fertilizer inputs must be optimized to provide the greatest potential for success.

“What makes the 4R system different from other programs we have launched is that it is designed specifically for retailers,” Mathers explains. “Retailers greatly influence growers, and if we can provide them with the necessary tools, together we will have a unified message.”

“We all want to be advocates for agriculture,” emphasizes CPS’ Sommers. “And the 4R system helps us work towards that effort.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

StewardshipBayer Lands Honor For Bee Care Center, Other Initiatives
June 3, 2014
Bayer Corp. has been named a 2014 Responsible Care Company of the Year by the American Chemistry Council, thanks in large part to its Drive Toward Zero initiative and North American Bayer Bee Care Center. Read More
StewardshipStrip-Tillage: A Sustainable Effort
March 3, 2014
As sustainable agriculture grows in popularity, interest in custom strip-tillage is growing. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Granted Nearly $500,000 To Examine Benefits Of Cover Crops
October 17, 2013
The Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has received a $482,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to study the benefits of cover crops. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More