Embracing the 4Rs


September 20, 2011

There is an increasing focus on fertilizers as a problem for the environment, not a solution to meeting the food needs of a growing population. While there is not a one size fits all answer, we know that mandatory rate reductions and input limits are not an environmental, economic or socially beneficial answer either. Alternatively, 4R nutrient stewardship that utilizes fertilizer best management practices addressing the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place, provides the foundation for a science-based system to achieve sustainable plant nutrition management. In short, 4R practices are good for the grower and good for the environment.

There is an existing need to improve farmers’ adoption of fertilizer best management practices to enhance 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 might advocate that efficiency increases should be achieved by reducing inputs, but this technique is likely to negatively affect yields over time. Conversely, squandering 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 leading an initiative www.nutrientstewardship.org to educate growers about the value of enhanced efforts aimed at nutrient stewardship. Through that effort, we are promoting 4R nutrient stewardship as the framework to achieve cropping system goals, like increased production, increased farmer profitability and enhanced environmental protection.