Last week, representatives from The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) staffed a booth at the Commodity Classic trade show. The Classic brings together corn, soybean, wheat, and sorghum growers from around the country – which provides TFI a great opportunity to engage with growers regarding 4R nutrient stewardship (implementation of best management practices that address the right source at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place). At this year’s classic, we enlisted the help of individuals with first-hand experience implementing the 4Rs in the field. Last fall, the inaugural 4R Advocate Award Program was announced. It provided an opportunity for retailers to nominate growers who were implementing the 4Rs and who would be good spokespersons for the initiative.
Experience indicates that people listen and learn from their peers. Therefore, grower and nominating retailer winners of the inaugural 2012 program were awarded an expense paid trip to the Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tenn. While at the conference, each of the five grower-retailer pairs spent an hour in TFI’s 4R nutrient stewardship booth. The advocate program winners interacted with growers and other stakeholders visiting the trade show, helping raise awareness of 4R initiatives and exchanging information about farming practices.
Growers and retailers across the country work hard to manage nutrient inputs. The practices they perform make economic sense because they help keep nutrients in the plants root zone reducing losses from the cropping system, and for the same reasons, these practices have positive environmental impacts.
The 4R advocates are great examples of this concept. The advocate winner who farms within the Chesapeake Bay watershed applies his nutrient inputs below the soil surface and near the plant to reduce losses via surface runoff and volatilization. The advocate winner who farms in Nebraska has sandy soils and helps keep nitrogen in the root zone by timing nutrient applications to just when the plant needs them. While these are singular examples of the practices these growers implement, it’s important to reiterate that growers and retailers don’t think of nutrient management as one practice. Rather it is a suite of practices that incorporate the 4Rs to address cropping system needs as well as resource sustainability.
The 4R Advocate Awards Program gives TFI an opportunity to honor these individuals for their efforts and to utilize their knowledge and experience to educate others.