2016 State of the Fertilizer Industry

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Agrium  |  Central Valley, California 

By implementing 4R principles and best practices to reduce fertilizer and water consumption, growers in the California Central Valley are trimming their costs, while stewarding precious water resources in the region. The valley between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the California Coast Range is arguably the world’s most productive agricultural region. However, persistent drought conditions have challenged the industry in recent years. Growers are paying up to 10 times more for their water, changing the value of certain crops and contribute in to price hikes in produce.

The quality of California’s drinking water has also become a concern after high levels of nitrates were discovered in 2012, causing the State Water Board to enact stringent regulation, requiring growers to regularly report water quality to the Board. 
Using Agrium’s Certified Crop Advisors, growers are closely monitoring their nutrient and water usage to maximize their yield while minimizing their inputs. Agrium’s crop advisers work with growers to use lysimeters (devices that measure the movement of water through soil) to monitor nitrate levels at the crops’ root zone to help prevent the leaching of nutrients into groundwater. 

By using lysimeters and field monitoring services, Agrium is providing growers with best management tools and data to help meet financial and environmental goals on the farm.

 

The Mosaic Company  |  Plymouth, Minnesota 

The Mosaic Company Foundation supports the Nutrient Stewardship Council’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program. This voluntary certification program is regionally focused on significantly reducing and preventing applied nutrients from running off fields by providing 4R nutrient recommendations or application services. By the end of 2015, the Nutrient Stewardship Council announced it reached an important milestone: more than one million acres in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) were under the guidance of nutrient service providers that have earned certification through this program.

“At Mosaic, we support and promote the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework to help farmers achieve the benefits of fertilizer while reducing nutrient loss to the environment,” said Rick McLellan, board member of The Mosaic Company Foundation and Senior Vice President – Commercial for The Mosaic Company. “We are proud to partner with the Nutrient Stewardship Council, and we look forward to ongoing collaboration that builds on this significant certification milestone.”

 

The Andersons  |  Waterloo, Indiana 

The Andersons, Inc., provides agronomic services and expertise through their multi-state network of agricultural retail outlets. 4R Nutrient Stewardship serves as a model for the company’s nutrient stewardship efforts. Cary Myer, director of farm center operations, believes the 4Rs are not only the right thing to do, but are also a solid business model that can be applied to all of The Andersons’s farm centers, regardless of location. “It’s consistent, it’s measurable, it’s practical, and it’s effective. Those are four critical boxes that we want to checkmark when we evaluate new business processes.”

Nick Jackson is the general manager of The Andersons’s farm center in Waterloo, Indiana, The Andersons’s newest retail dealer to achieve 4R certification. Located on the far west edge of the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB), Nick recognized the need to incorporate the 4Rs into the business model as 95 percent of their growers operate in the WLEB. The educational aspect of the 4R program helps The Andersons reach out to growers in nontraditional ways and raise awareness of the need for nutrient stewardship. The Waterloo farm center hosted a 4R grower outreach event with USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service staff in attendance. Events such as this bridge the gap between nutrient stewardship and conservation. 

“4R puts us in a position where we can really partner with our growers at a much deeper and more comprehensive level. It expands our level of service and value-add to our customers,” Nick said.

 

Nutrients for Life Foundation  |  Washington, D.C.

The Nutrients for Life Foundation (NFLF) is focused on educating the next generation of leaders on the value of fertilizers. Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2014, NFLF released Feeding the World & Protecting the Environment for use in AP environmental science classes. Through targeted efforts to increase adoption of these classroom materials, students use them to examine the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework, learn about essential plant nutrients, and study the fertilizer manufacturing processes. Additionally, students consider various federal regulations, such as the Clean Water Act, in relation to fertilizer-manufacturing. 

NFLF has built strategic partnerships with the Smithsonian Institution and Discovery Education. Through these partnerships, resources, and regional representative network, NFLF brings these resources to teachers in each of the 50 states.

In the past three years (2012-2015), more than 23,775,000 people have been impacted by using one of NFLF’s educational resources. In the last year, NFLF distributed 365,406 resources and outreach materials to 237,514 teachers from across the country. In just the past year, 6.1 million students were impacted.

 

Koch Ag & Energy Solutions  |  Wichita, Kansas

Research is an important component in product development, and Koch Ag and Energy Solutions is working with land-grant university researchers to evaluate the impact of their enhanced efficiency fertilizer products on yield and farm profitability.

“Working with university researchers allows us to geographically expand our product assessments while supporting tomorrow’s scientists and agronomists,” said Dr. Greg Schwab at Koch Ag and Energy Solutions where he directs a 12-member agronomy team.

In addition, the research team evaluates innovations that hold the potential to further improve nutrient use efficiency in the field. In 2015, Koch invested significant resources to evaluate products in 55 field research trials. Recognizing the need for science and research needs in the future, Koch provides support for graduate students and post-doctoral students who will be the next generation of scientists working with farmers.

 

SQM  |  Atlanta, Georgia

SQM North America partners with leading universities — North Carolina State University, Clemson University, University of Vermont, Colorado State University, and Oregon State University — to run trial studies on efficient nutrient use and yield improvement. This total investment of around $500,000 in recent and ongoing trials has provided numerous data points helping improve the use of fertilizer across numerous crops throughout the United States.

2016 State of the Fertilizer Industry