Producers across the country are maximizing the efficient use of fertilizer using today's best practices for fertilizer application. Using careful planning and today's precision agriculture technology to analyze and improve fertilizer application, farmers have the ability to maximize yields while strengthening their bottom line. In addition, best practices in fertilizer use result in cleaner waterways and a healthier environment.
One prominent and useful effort to maximize fertilizer effectiveness is the 4R program delivered through The Fertilizer Institute. The program helps producers proactively plan for the best use of fertilizer by emphasizing the "Four R's:
Right Fertilizer Source - Know the right fertilizer for your crop, taking into consideration the unique properties and needs of the crop and soil, as well as the specific characteristics of the fertilizer needed. Understand compatibility when using multiple fertilizers and know the effects of mixing two fertilizers.
Right Rate - Determine what your crop needs with a focus on plant nutrient demand, compared to the nutrient supply currently in the soil. Take into account fertilizer use efficiency to maximize the positive impact on the soil and minimize risk for detrimental effects.
Right Time - Consider both field logistics and the needs of crops when planning ahead for fertilizer application. Always strive to apply fertilizer to match the seasonal crop nutrient demand, dependent on factors unique to the crop and the growing season.
Right Place - Apply nutrients in a way that ensures plants can use them. While the "right place" depends on many factors that are often changing, this is once again a matter of planning fertilizer application with an eye on field and plant specifics - from spacing, to genetics, to tillage and weather.
The 4R program emphasizes planning above all else. By planning ahead and ensuring that fertilizer application follows the Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place principles, you can achieve more efficient application. Ultimately that means savings for the farm, reduced runoff, and a cleaner environment.
You can learn more about the 4R program at The Fertilizer Institute's 4R Nutrient Stewardship site. In addition, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance program is a partner in incorporating 4R principles on the farm. A great website for basic fertilizer information can be found at Fertilizer 101.
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