USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Mid-Atlantic 4R Nutrient Stewardship Association to develop crop production and conservation systems based in the principles of the 4R nutrient stewardship framework.
The 4R stewardship framework is an approach to fertilizer and nutrient best management practices that considers the economic, social and environmental dimensions of nutrient management. It was developed by The Fertilizer Institute.
The Mid-Atlantic 4R Nutrient Stewardship Association includes the Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance and the Pennsylvania 4R Alliance. Katie Turner, agricultural program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania, says the alliance has developed a two-year plan in Pennsylvania for more outreach and educational development of nutrient management trainers in the state.
“We plan to release a series of training modules this fall, hosting them in-person at key conservation districts on seasonal 4R-related topics,” Turner says, adding that the first one will be on fall manure application.
Turner says the MOU, even though it doesn’t include additional funding from NRCS for 4R implementation, aligns the interests of the government with local 4R alliances on using consistent 4R language in training materials and making sure more nutrient advisers know of the 4R concept — applying the right source of nutrients at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place.
“A lot of different field days I go to, people don't know about it (4R),” she says. “So, I think this will go a long way for it to become common language out there.”
NRCS will continue to provide technical and financial assistance to farmers for improving soil health, nutrient management and water quality, as well as collaborate with Mid-Atlantic 4R members on communications and training opportunities for agribusinesses, NRCS staff and private landowners.
Mid-Atlantic 4R members will support NRCS efforts by developing conservation plans with farmers that incorporate environmentally and economically beneficial practices.
“This partnership will help advance efforts to meet water quality goals in the Chesapeake Bay and implement State Watershed Implementation Plans,” says Bill Angstadt, chairman of the board of directors for the Mid-Atlantic 4R Nutrient Stewardship Association. “By working together, private businesses and NRCS will accelerate the implementation of advanced nutrient management 4R practices to benefit local farmers and waterways.”
So far, over 13,000 acres of farmland in the Mid-Atlantic region have been enrolled in 4R-focused NRCS programs through multiyear contracts where farmers have committed to using precision agriculture practices to help protect local watersheds. The new partnership between NRCS and Mid-Atlantic 4R is intended to accelerate all these efforts.
In addition to The Nature Conservancy, the Pennsylvania 4R Alliance Steering Committee members include Rosetree Consulting, Growmark FS, NRCS, State Conservation Commission, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, PennAg Industries Association, Timac Agro, Syngenta, Koch Agronomic Services and Chemgro.
The Steering Committee members for the DE-MD 4R Alliance include The Nature Conservancy, Growmark FS, Delaware Department of Agriculture, DE-MD Agribusiness Association, University of Maryland Extension and Maryland Farm Bureau.