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Breaking down the tools to achieve 4Rs

Photo courtesy of Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance Aaron Thompson prepares his precision mapping technology to variably apply nutrients
PRECISE AND PRODUCTIVE: Aaron Thompson prepares his precision mapping technology to variably apply nutrients at the right rate in the right place.
Agribusinesses like Growmark FS and Willard Agri-Service have tools available to help farmers maximize nutrient use.

Reaching growers about implementing the concepts of the 4Rs — right source, right rate, right time, and right place — could not be done without the cooperation from agribusiness.

The Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance is a collaborative of agribusinesses, farmers, government agencies, conservation groups and scientists working together to benefit the economic, environmental and social well-being of our lands, waters and our farmers.

During the alliance's recent virtual field day, which attracted more than 180 people, agribusiness advocates for the 4Rs talked about tools they offer to help growers who are seeking to implement 4R nutrient stewardship practices.

Growmark FS has a program called “MiField,” an agronomic tool designed to deliver information farmers need to get the highest profit per acre by achieving optimum nutrient use efficiency, thereby reducing nutrient loss to the environment.

By recognizing the need for precision agriculture, Growmark FS established the MiField Analytics Team in 2015. This program takes soil sampling to the next level. Farmers get their fields tested using soil maps, electrical conductivity mapping, historical yield data or field imagery.

Once the zones are determined, Growmark uses its automated soil sampler, “The Falcon,” which pulls a sample every 15 feet and mixes the samples thoroughly. With those results growers get a comprehensive cropping plan that balances soil pH, maximizes their return and minimizes inputs.

Willard Agri-Service’s Eco Nutrition provides a suite of tools to support a farmer’s management of nutrients. It helps growers with a more advanced nutrient management plan, providing an in-depth soil and crop match to grow a profitable crop with as little nutrient loss as possible, providing benefits for the farmer and the environment.

One tool in the Eco N suite is nitrogen modeling, which determines the amount of nitrogen needed to achieve the crop goal by modeling growth and soils to understand crop demand as well as nitrogen mineralization and loss.

Pioneer works with Granular to get historical yield data to run its multiyear yield analysis in order to create sub-field productivity zones. That information is then combined with soil data and environmental response unit information to create Granular agronomy management zones.

These small, subfield units are used to determine the overall yield potential of a field and will set either flat or variable yield targets for the management zones.

This can help with variable nutrient application to get maximum yields with the most efficient use of inputs.

Through enhanced soil testing, soil-type breakdown by field, varieties of corn planted and overall cropping history — matched with site-specific weather — a farmer can receive a daily updated recommendation. This recommendation can be edited, if necessary.

Then, a prescription is created for that field every time nitrogen and other plant foods are recommended. The prescription is then sent to an app that communicates with variable-rate equipment on the amount of fertilizer needed to help meet the farmer’s yield goal.

Through DE-MD 4R Alliance members like Growmark FS, Pioneer and Willard AgriServices, farmers can work toward their desired yield goals by maximizing their nutrient use and minimizing losses to the environment.

Reach out to your desired agribusiness and see how you can implement the 4Rs on your farm.

Thompson is owner of Thompson Ag Consulting and Eck is programs and public relations director at Thompson Ag Consulting

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