Nutrients are essential for growing crops – but similar to calories in our diets, too much of a good thing can be a problem. Fertilizer is a component of sustainable crop production. If farmers under use nutrients, they mine soil fertility, reduce yields and reduce economic returns. And, conversely, if agricultural producers over use or incorrectly use nutrients it negatively impacts the environment and the farmer’s pocketbook.
The fertilizer industry recognizes the need to improve the adoption of fertilizer best management practices to improve the sustainability, efficiency and productivity of agricultural systems. Efficiency and productivity together are interwoven with sustainability. Striving to improve efficiency without also increasing productivity simply increases the pressure to produce more on other lands which may be less suited to agricultural production. Some advocate for achieving efficiency increases by reducing inputs, but this technique is likely to negatively affect crop yields over time. Alternatively, inefficient application of fertilizer resources to maximize productivity results in increased environmental impacts and decreased profitability.
To address the need for greater adoption of fertilizer best management practices the fertilizer industry is engaging in an effort to implement, educate, and provide outreach on nutrient stewardship. 4R nutrient stewardship provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals, like increased production, increased farmer profitability and enhanced environmental protection. The four “rights” are intertwined and all are necessary for sustainable plant nutrition management.
- TFI supports site-specific best management practices framed around the 4R nutrient stewardship system. A “one size fits all” approach, as is being advocated in some policy circles, will not achieve the common goals of productive, sustainable and economically rewarding farming that protects the environment.