Remember the song Tina Turner recorded, “[You’re Simply] The Best?” It applies to those farmers implementing the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship. We say it because it indicates their interest and investment not only in improving the sustainability of their land and waterways, but also in staying profitable through efficiency. They’re the cream of the crop, we think.
However, today, an increase in food demand coupled with environmental concerns raise challenges for all farmers to maintain a profitable yet sustainable crop. The 4Rs principles are no longer relevant only to those among us who want to focus their energy and efforts on conservation alone for their own benefit. They are impactful for anyone producing a crop, on any land, and will one day become the standard for all operations, as others see their efficacy results.
For one, growing concern surrounding the impact of nutrient runoff that winds up in waterways and ecosystems.
Second, this approach helps farmers make the most of their fertilizer investments and remain profitable. The framework addresses two main challenges that will shape agriculture in the next decade: population pressures and regulatory pressures.
The United Nations estimates the world population will increase to more than nine billion by 2050, and the food needed to sustain that increased population will come from intensified production, not an expanded base of farmed land. But coupled with pressure from legislative, regulatory and nongovernmental organizations to reduce nutrient runoff into waterways, increasing production is no easy task.
That’s why the International Plant Nutrition Institute, The Fertilizer Institute, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association developed and endorse the 4Rs practices to help farmers achieve maximum results.
And finally, doing so provides economic, social and environmental benefits to improving a finite resource on which all life depends – water. The improvement and preservation of our waterways is near and dear to us, and it cannot be disregarded among conversations about feeding our planet efficiently.
Ultimately, properly managed fertilizer can increase productivity and profitability, while poorly managed fertilizer decreases profitability and increases nutrient losses which cause runoff downstream to key waterways. We embrace the effort to move farmers in the direction of implementing these practices on their operations, along with others that optimize the efficiency of applied fertilizer.