No doubt, in today’s farm economy many farmer customers are asking how they can reduce their input expenses and maintain yield. And there’s a concept and set of principles that will help you deliver that to your customer: the 4Rs. It’s all about the right nutrient sources, at the right rate, in the right place and at the right time.

To provide visibility for their existing knowledge base and understanding in the 4Rs, Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) can earn a specialty certification as a 4R Nutrient Management Specialist (4R NMS.)

“Applying the 4R principles is a good thing for farmers, retailers and the general public,” says John Musser, business/technology manager at Stephenson Service Company in Stockton, Ill. “As crop advisers it’s a good thing we show we know what we are doing. 4R is a step above, and it has recognition.”

Since 2015, 182 CCAs have earned the 4R NMS certification. It is currently available in 15 states: Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. 

“CCAs are already leading the way in conveying the best practices of nutrient management to growers; this specialty certification simply draws more attention and validates a standard for crop advisers,” says Eric Welsh, program manager, Marketing & Business Relations for the CCA program.

The timing in showing proactive and socially aware practices has never been more important.

“It’s important to show the CCA and farmer are doing this work voluntarily. There’s an increased focus in nutrient management, and there’s more scrutiny with the potential for increased government regulation,” Welsh says.

In practice. “This is all about serving farmers and their land stewardship. We should help them answer if they are getting the maximum yield from the appropriate amount of inputs,” Musser says. “You become a fan when you win.”

Musser earned his 4R certification in the past year but has been working with farmers to focus on better nutrient management in northwest Illinois for 20 years. In his experience, teaching the farmer to understand the process, the opportunity and the science leads to success.

“For example, three years ago, a farmer wanted to split nitrogen applications. He did the work himself—a big commitment—and he gave it up. But this fall, I helped him re-implement some practices.”

Years of experience with 4R nutrient management helps farmers see the practical side of the science.

“We need to get more people trying, understanding and talking about the positive things they do. It’s not just selling product and equipment but the practicality of the process,” Musser says.

He thinks without more proactive participation there could be three or four years of hard learning curves ahead.

“You can hear the train rolling,” Musser says. “If you don’t start participating along the way, we won’t be ready for the next wave of questions about what we do when in our fields.”

The 4R NMS certification could bring additional opportunity in the near future. 

“The 4Rs are increasingly embedded in what is happening with fertilizer practices on the ground,” says Lara Moody, senior director of stewardship and sustainability at The Fertilizer Institute, the organization that developed the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship principles. “USDA NRCS is using the 4Rs in its nutrient management standard, and 4R-based nitrogen stewardship is a key building block for the climate-smart agriculture program aimed at achieving a portion of USDA’s greenhouse gas emission- reduction commitments. The NRCS Technical Services Provider (TSP) program is linked to both.”

Available now. The 4R NMS certification is offered twice a year, and the next available test is Feb. 3, 2017. Registration is open until Dec. 9 at

This article appeared in the November Crop Fertility Quarterly of Ag Pro magazine

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