4R Research Has Grown with Industry and Academic Support

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November 22, 2016

Over the years of my career, I had attended the Tri-Societies Annual Meeting numerous times. But this month, it was my first time attending as the Director of Agronomy at The Fertilizer Institute, I was excited to promote the work we are doing in 4R Nutrient Stewardship with others. However, to my pleasant surprise, 4R themes were seen across multiple sessions during the conference.

The Tri-Societies Annual Meeting is held by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America and brings together more than 4,000 professionals working in the agronomic, crop, soil, and related sciences to hear about the latest research and expand their knowledge base.

I participated in a special session organized by Fertilizer Canada for researchers involved in the 4R Research Fund to present the status of their projects. Researchers from the United States discussed an analysis of past research that allowed them to review results from more than 1,300 plot level observations on the use of the 4Rs in nitrogen management in corn hybrids. This review found that nitrogen (N) rate and timing have a large influence on the N uptake in corn.

The 4R Research Fund also supports work to determine the measurable outcomes of the environmental, economic, and social impacts of 4R implementation. Another research team discussed how the 4R Research Fund will gather and grow the database of information on 4R research so that it can be used in the future.

Beyond the the 4R Research Fund session, there was several independent oral and poster presentations featuring work on the 4Rs. An oral and a poster session titled, “The Impact of 4Rs (Source, Rate, Time, and Place) on Crop Yield,” which had 14 speakers who addressed 4R N management in corn grain, loblolly pines, wheat, and potatoes. Additionally, there was research on phosphorus (P) placement and timing in corn and potassium (K) rate and method of application in cotton. The question of when to take soil samples for use in nutrient application recommendations often comes up, and the final presentation in the oral session concluded that the timing of fertilizer application before soil sampling had a larger influence on the results of the soil sample than just the timing of the soil sample.

In the poster session on Impact of 4Rs on Crop Yield, there were 12 posters that examined the timing, rate, placement, and source of N in tobacco, cotton, wild rice, sugarcane, and potatoes.

There were many other sessions across the meetings where the 4R themes were evident. A  poster contest examined the 4Rs in relation to new technologies such as aerial imagery. Posters in this session also investigated application timing and rate of N, P, and K in sugarcane, rice, and winter wheat. Finally, a session on Nutrient Management Law and Regulation covered how the 4Rs have been incorporated or can be incorporated to help achieve nutrient loss reductions.

4R and the environmental, economic, and social impacts of changes in nutrient management were a strong theme at the meetings. Our challenge is still to bring all the work together to create measurable outcomes for farms, the environment, and society. A new opportunity to help address this is available through USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grants. USDA has made $25 Million in funding available for innovative conservation projects, where 4R was cited as a precision conservation tool to uncover opportunities for better input management.