PART 2: EMPLOYING
THE drive to improve agricultural production to feed the estimated 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050 is not an “at any cost” proposition.
Over the next four decades, there will be significantly more demands placed on growers as to how they produce crops, and ag retailers will play a key role in helping them to implement best crop management practices.
Regulatory issues surrounding maximizing fertilizer application and reducing nutrient intrusion into watersheds are arguably posing the biggest challenge to agriculture, as regulatory entities such as EPA work to develop rules that successfully balance the need for yield with the risk of over-applied or underutilized nutrients. For its part the fertilizer industry, under the umbrella of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), is championing best nutrient application practices through its 4R fertilizer stewardship program.
The 4R program is a voluntary industry effort that harnesses the resources and expertise of growers, retailers, consultants and manufacturers to test and develop best practices that employ the key tenets of the initiative: Right Rate, Right Place, Right Timing and Right Product.
“This is a pivotal and primary interface that the retailer can use to step up their expertise,” says William Herz, vice president of scientific programs for TFI. “They can bring in a Certified Crop Adviser to help growers implement more sophisticated nutrient management plans and practices through the 4R program.”
And TFI is has put funding behind this initiative, offering
4R Fertilizer Initiative.
tilizer efficiency while maintaining or increasing yield.
One of the key ways that agricultural retailers are helping growers to embrace improved field practices is through the use of precision agriculture technology and site-specific field management. According to the 2011 CropLife magazine/Purdue University Retail Precision Adoption Survey, six in 10 retailers offer precision services of some kind to growers, figure that has held relatively steady for the past five years.
Variable-rate nutrient application is gaining greater attention from retailers according to the study. Nearly 60% of survey respondents indicated that by the year 2014, they will offer single nutrient VRA that is driven automatically by a controller using a prescription designed by the retail agronomist. Growth over the same time period is also expected in multiple nutrient variable rate to about 44%.
The research indicated that retailers expect all precision services
to increase between 2011 and 2014, including soil sampling, field mapping, yield monitor data analysis, satellite imagery and soil electrical conductivity (see chart).
Beyond just the use of precision technology and techniques, retailers are also helping growers to collect and store agronomic data and to put it to best use in making field decisions that balance crop needs with environmental stewardship.
“Precision farming tools for assessing needs, adjusting application, and monitoring results are the tools that provide the data with which we can make the better-
informed decisions,” said Harold Reetz, owner of Reetz Agronomics and long-time president of the Foundation for Agronomic Research.
“This will allow for the kind of fine tuning that makes farming sustainable, provides for maximum yields and the most efficient use of resources, and has the least negative impact on the environment.”
Retailer South Dakota Wheat Growers has developed a brand for its precision services called the MZB System, which is providing real benefits for growers, according to Bill Pool, director of communications and corporate marketing.
“By using our MZB Precision Ag Tools we can make sure the producer is putting the right amount of fertilizer and seed on the specific zone to get the most yield potential for that specific piece of ground while not wasting, or overusing product on ground that won’t respond to higher seeding or fertility rates,” says Pool.
The stakes are high in the fight against global hunger, and retailers are playing a key role in helping growers manage inputs and information in a way that improves yield while maximizing inputs. By using precision technology and helping growers identify and implement best practices, retailers are indeed working on the front lines to help US agriculture achieve its full potential.
expect all precision services to
increase between 2011 and 2014 …”