4 R’S - They Might Just Make or Break You
The principles behind the 4 R’s could make or break the efficiency and successfulness of your farm's fertility program. It could also cost you thousands of dollars, and you might not even notice it.
Not to be all gloom and doom, but now I got your attention.
The principles I’m talking about are related to nutrient management. Remember how I explained agronomy is the science of land and crop management, well managing nutrients is part of that. An essential part. With the ever-rising cost of inputs and a real need for more transparency in the industry – hint, hint to all the fertilizer people reading – now more than ever a farmer needs to be spot on with their fertility program.
If I had to bring it down to the simplest of ways to do that, it would be to practice the 4 R’s. Investing some extra time in researching cost and nutrient effective sources, applying them at the right rate, timing applications for the greatest efficiency in nutrient uptake, and considering placement will have a huge impact on your crop and bottom-line. It will lead to higher yielding and healthier plants while being a better steward of our valuable resources.
Here is an overview of the 4R’s
The Right Source- Availability, characteristics, and price
I never thought I would see the day when fertilizers are on the endangered species list of hard to source. I remember starting out back just a few short years ago, and a mentor in the industry mentioned that we could see the day that some of the components used to make organic or naturally derived fertilizers could be hard to get. I thought that’s crazy talk, that will never happen. However, even a few short years it has become more challenging to find commonly used inputs such as greensand and aragonite, and once you do find them, the price disparages between supplies and shipping cost can limit and or prohibit their use.
The Right Rate- Based on soiL test and plant demand
I hate to beat a dead horse – just get a soil test! It doesn’t make sense to implement any fertility plan without one. But don’t stop there. Far too often farmers/growers – whatever you want to call yourself – need to look at the crop and fertility history of your fields as well. Take it even further and consider what nutrient demands the crop you’re going into requires as well. Bottom line is over or under using fertilizer costs you in crop loss or just money wasted on inputs you didn’t need. It has environmental implications as well.
The Right Time- Determined by plant demands, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and management strategies
Making nutrients available when the plant needs them. Easier said than done, I know. But with a little thought and knowledge about how the nutrients behave in the soil and how and when the plant needs them, applications can be made when nutrient uptake is optimal.
The Right Place- Consider root-soil dynamics, nutrient movement, and nutrient loss potential
I think this one may be the most overlooked. It can be costly, cumbersome, and labor intensive to place inputs right at the exact spot. Equipment, labor, and time are not always in your favor. Not to mention some products are harder to work with than others. But knowing your limitation, product characteristics, and at least having a plan go along way in overcoming the challenges.
Making a large purchase for inputs into your operation is a huge commitment. Take a few minutes and invest further to get the most out of your fertilizer dollar by understanding these four basic principles.