The North American fertilizer industry has pledged $7 million to fund a multi-year research effort aimed at measuring and evaluating the economic, social and environmental impacts of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time and in the right place). The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the Canadian Fertilizer Institute (CFI) and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) announced that the fund will support U.S. and Canadian projects in partnership with land-grant universities, watershed stakeholders and government agencies, as well as through industry initiatives.
Current efforts by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to evaluate the effect of nutrient management practices have identified the need for increased adoption of nutrient best management practices (BMP) tied to source, rate, time, and place. Results of research conducted under the auspices of the fund will help expand information and knowledge regarding specific BMPs, as well as suites of BMPs, to help increase adoption of these practices by growers.
"Improved science-based solutions are critical to meeting crop production and environmental quality challenges", said Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Public-private partnerships like this one are an effective way to leverage the expertise that improves on-farm solutions that are economical and practical in the short and long term. USDA looks forward to supporting efforts to evaluate and improve nutrient management as part of a systems approach to voluntary conservation."
In Canada, the fertilizer industry has been working with provincial partners to increase 4R implementation on farmland. These government and stakeholder partnerships are in cooperation with major farm groups and conservation groups in the regions.
"The strength of the 4R Research Fund lies in the joint effort of government, researchers, farmers and the fertilizer industry working together," explained CFI President Roger Larson. “It is not enough for the fertilizer industry to promote 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Our industry must measure, through agronomic research, the benefits of the 4Rs for improved farmer economics, feeding the world, and protecting the environment.”
In recent years, retailers have been working with farmers to promote 4R principles through their branded agronomy programs. These efforts serve as a means of enhancing water quality and increasing nutrient use efficiency, as well as farmer profitability. As a result, there has been an increase in the use of 4R focused nutrient stewardship in state and federal conservation and stewardship programs. Gaining a better understanding of the air and water quality impacts of on-farm stewardship practices will help build momentum and increase the use of fertilizer best management practices. This is a driving reason for establishment of the research fund.
The fund will engage and leverage the resources of stakeholders who have an interest in pursuing this area of work. The fund will operate under the umbrella of the Foundation for Agronomic Research (FAR) and will be managed by a committee responsible for strategic decisions and final selection for research program expenditures. A technical advisory group consisting of industry, academic and government agency experts in agronomy, environmental sciences, sustainability, government relations and communications will also provide support to the management committee.
“Establishment of the 4R research fund demonstrates that the fertilizer industry is serious about ensuring that science is at the forefront of all that it does in the nutrient stewardship arena,” said TFI President Ford West. “Agricultural retailers provide not just inputs but also agronomic services and information to growers. This research will provide more information to them as they work with their farmer customers.”
"Through the establishment of the research fund, we hope to document and prove that the 4R’s will improve nutrient use efficiency and in doing so, be of benefit for the environment,” said IPNI President Dr. Terry Roberts.