A Farmer's Responsibility
for Nutrient Management
Nutrient management is an important part of growing a crop, as Holland, Iowa, farmer Dale Launstein points out.
“Better crop nutrition is good for yields, but managing nutrients the right way is very important for the environment,” explains Launstein. “Applying fertilizer in the correct amounts at the correct time and in the correct places helps us minimize the impact on our surrounding environment.”
Launstein practices what he preaches, applying only the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus needed to eliminate any runoff or excessive leaching. He’s also a strong proponent of planting buffer strips, and is looking into strip-till or no-till practices to further care for his soil.
“As a farmer, I need to be proactive with nutrient management so that I don’t cause any damage that can’t be reversed,” Launstein continues. “I need to keep improving and making changes to keep the world in good shape for my kids.”
One of the social requirements of farming today is to run a sustainable business. But that doesn’t mean science should fall by the wayside. Just the opposite, in fact. For several years, agriculture has been adopting scientific principles for sustainable cropping called the 4R’s. The 4R’s help farmers achieve environmental, economic and social responsibility, all while improving the soil they rely on.
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship program means that the right nutrient is placed at the right rate in the right place at the right time. In essence, it’s applying just what the plant needs, and nothing more. Not only is this an environmentally responsible way to use fertilizer, but it’s economical, too — by applying the correct amount the crop needs. The benefits of using the 4R program are both tangible and intangible, as outlined here.
With the amount of data available today, and the level of precision with which fertilizers can be applied, adopting the 4R’s is attainable with much of the current on-farm equipment. It’s also a clear demonstration that agriculture is proactive and addressing the issue of sustainability.
Perhaps most importantly, using the 4R’s as a guideline to plan fertilizer applications helps build soil fertility over time and improving soil health. Not only is that good for today’s agriculture, but for future generations, too.