Nutrients applied in the right amount can increase yields, reduce production costs and prevent surface and groundwater pollution. When soil sampling data is overlapped with yield mapping data, a clearer picture can be developed where deficiencies are occurring in the field. Detailed soil sampling can also more accurately represent where nutrients are needed the most, resulting in more efficient use of that nutrient and cost savings.
Research being done at the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms and other related sites around the state is helping researchers determine what practices work best for reducing nutrient and sediment loss. Over the last five years, on-farm research has shown that following the 4R approach can help reduce nutrient and sediment loss:
The 4R Approach
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles provide proven best practices for the application of nutrients (commercial or manure) by using the right source of nutrients at the right rate and right time in the right place below the soil surface.
To achieve desired yields most efficiently, a nutrient applicator should select a plant-available nutrient source that provides a balanced supply of essential nutrients while considering both naturally available sources and the characteristics of specific products.
How to achieve the Right Source:
Coordinate nutrient analyses with soil tests
It is important to collect and test soil samples on a consistent basis. Additionally, a nutrient analysis should be compared to the soil test results to ensure the application of the nutrients a field and crop needs.
How it helps:
Coordinating nutrient analyses with soil test results helps reduce the spread of unnecessary nutrients.
Every crop, field and soil has its own unique nutrient needs. When farmers blanket apply nutrients, however, they run the risk of placing too many nutrients in one place and not enough in the other – with the possibility of negative impacts on either the environment or the potential of that crop. Therefore, it’s important to use technology in a way that allows the application of the right rate of nutrients for optimal results.
Solution to achieve Right Rate:
Variable or optimum rate application
Variable rate nutrient application allows crop producers to apply different rates of nutrients in different locations across the field, based on soil tests, with the help of precision technology like computers and GPS.
How it helps:
Variable rate technology for fertilizer has been used by farmers and applicators for many years. It can improve water quality and plant health, as well as optimize fertilizer inputs. Manure, however, has typically been applied at an even rate across the field. New technology for manure application equipment is changing this practice.
This article was featured in the March/April 2021 edition of Our Ohio Magazine.
On this episode of Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer, we talk with Dr. Kevin King from USDA Agriculture Research Service about his Edge of Field Monitoring program, which services as the backbone of scientific information for most nutrient and soil management decisions in the Midwest.