Virtually every grower I talk to understands the importance of 4R nutrient stewardship. In fact, I would offer that, by and large, the industry has been following these scientifically proven principles for decades. However, we haven’t done a very good job of telling the story — that these principles are interdependent, and that certain sustainable results can be achieved when 4R principles are employed.
Of course, the 4R program still is and will continue to be a very important program for the crop nutrition industry. It’s important that we all keep learning about nutrient stewardship. While I feel that most farmers find land stewardship to be a top priority, even the best can improve.
That said, I think the next step is to spread this message outside of our industry. It’s important that we, as an industry, tell our story. That includes growers and retailers. When you think of crop nutrition, 4R nutrient stewardship should be the first thing you think of. We’re getting there, but we’ve got a ways to go.
A recent resolution by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) might go a long way in helping us tell that story well into the future. In March, the TFI board of directors passed a resolution to levy a fee on members to support a research fund that focuses on 4R nutrient stewardship.
This program will fund the establishment of sustainability indicators and environmental impact data for implementation of 4R nutrient stewardship across North America. With a focus on measuring and documenting the economic, social and environmental impacts of 4R nutrient stewardship, the program will help expand the 4Rs beyond being solely an industry effort. Hopefully, through this new program, 4R nutrient stewardship becomes a viable strategy embraced by other important stakeholders to address cropping system productivity and concerns for nutrient losses into the environment.
At The Mosaic Company, our passion around this topic is palpable. We support the 4R way of thinking and assist with the implementation of 4R nutrient stewardship messaging with all of our retail customers, so that they’re well armed to talk to their grower customers and employees about it.
The right product, applied at the right rate, at the right time and the right place is vital to having those nutrients available to the plant and used in the most efficient way possible. Implementation is simply a good economic practice, with social and environmental benefits making the extra effort well worthwhile.