USDA’s Embrace of 4Rs Will Help Advance Their Adoption in Agriculture


December 14, 2011

Fertilizer is a component of sustainable crop production, and TFI recognizes that in excess, nutrients can contribute to pollution. If overused or incorrectly applied, fertilizer nutrients will negatively impact the environment and the community – not to mention the grower’s pocketbook. Conversely, if we under use nutrients, we remove more nutrients than we add, reduce yields, and reduce farm livelihoods.

 During the last year, the fertilizer industry has been working to heighten awareness of the need to increase the adoption of fertilizer best management practices to enhance the sustainability, efficiency, and productivity of agricultural systems. Efficiency and productivity are interwoven with sustainability. Striving to improve efficiency without also increasing productivity simply increases the pressure to produce more on marginal lands. Additionally, some might advocate that efficiency increases should be achieved by reducing inputs, but this technique has the potential to negatively affect yields over time. Conversely, squandering resources to maximize productivity potentially results in increased environmental impacts and decreased profitability.
The fertilizer industry has been conveying this message through promotion of 4R nutrient stewardship, using the right nutrient source, at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) released a revised version of its national conservation practice standard on nutrient management which recognized the 4Rs.  As stated by the NRCS, the updated nutrient management standard will provide a roadmap for NRCS's staff and others to help producers apply available nutrient sources in the right amount, from the right source, in the right place, at the right time for maximum agricultural and environmental benefits. The nutrient management conservation practice is an important tool in the NRCS conservation toolbox. The agency's staff uses this conservation practice to help farmers and ranchers apply their nutrients more efficiently. 

 Adoption of the 4Rs in USDA efforts will help the fertilizer industry reach a broader audience and increase the implementation of fertilizer best management practices on the farm. I applaud NRCS for incorporating what science shows to be a positive direction for agriculture, and I applaud NRCS for partnering with agricultural stakeholders of all types to advance tools that can be used to help producers across the nation.