Integrating 4R nutrient stewardship and precision ag

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

click image to zoom In his keynote address last fall at the 11th International Conference on Precision Agriculture, Newell Kitchen, Ph.D., USDA-ARS, highlighted the significant role that nutrient management plays in the industry. “Nutrient management has been a starting point, the seedbed of a lot of the concepts where we got going [in precision agriculture].” He noted that in the early years of the conference, as many as 70 percent of the papers presented dealt with nutrient management. That number continues to be around 50 percent and may increase in coming years as options for precision nutrient management continue to grow.

The history of precision nutrient management can be thought of as having occurred in three phases: adaption, integration and accountability. Dr. Kitchen pointed out that early on, we basically took what we knew about nutrient management and applied a spatial component to it. The precision agriculture movement really started to expand and overcome many of the short-comings of the adaption approaches when existing knowledge began to be integrated with new technologies. He cited the use of crop canopy sensors as an example of the growing options for precision nutrient management created by integrating real-time spatial and temporal information into the decision-making process.

4R Nutrient Stewardship is another example of integration in nutrient management. Dr. Kitchen acknowledged that the ideas of applying the right source at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place have always been fundamental in our understanding and application of soil fertility and plant nutrition. However, the language, descriptiveness, and holistic emphasis put forth in the 4R’s is unique and fresh and that “precision agriculture is woven into many of the concepts of 4R stewardship”. He also said, “Precision science and technologies allow us to emphasize [the 4Rs] all at the same time; to wrap our arms around the concepts in a way that we can move forward in a meaningful way.”

Precision agriculture tools can provide the feedback and recordkeeping necessary for the accountability that is needed in nutrient management. The inclusion of accountability is another way 4R stewardship moves beyond traditional nutrient management. One of the main ways this is accomplished is through the inclusion of a dynamic feedback mechanism. In the past, nutrient management has been linear, mostly from the top down, with no feedback nor any assessment of changes in practice. 4R Nutrient Stewardship provides the framework for stakeholder involvement at the farm, regional, and policy-making levels and precision agriculture tools can provide feedback to all of these positions. The use of performance indicators as an objective evaluation of management practices, which can increase the level of accountability that is important to most all stakeholders, can also be done more accurately and effectively using precision agriculture technologies. Dr. John Fulton, Auburn University, echoed Dr. Kitchen’s feelings on accountability in nutrient management in his presentation by stating, “I really think there should be a 5th ‘R’, right record-keeping.”

Integrating precision agriculture and 4R Nutrient Stewardship enhances our ability to meet the sustainability goals of crop production systems. As more growers adopt precision technologies for guidance, variable rate control, data collection, and information management, their ability to apply the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place increases considerably. This integration also enhances feedback among stakeholders and increases the confidence that the economic, environmental, and social challenges that face agricultural production can be viewed as opportunities to further advance nutrient management. When we, as an agricultural community commit to this approach, we will begin to change people’s attitudes about nutrient management and find, as Dr. Kitchen stated in his closing remarks, “a great frontier ahead of us.”

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Declining Weigh Blending System

Ranco Declining Weigh (DW) is the standard in fertilizer blending because of the speed and accuracy of the blending process. ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form