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Fluid Journal : Late Spring 2013
22 The Fluid Journal Late Spring 2013 increase implementation of fertilizer best management practices (BMPs) through 4R nutrient stewardship. There is an immediate connection between applying the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time, and in the right place and their beneficial impacts on crop performance, soil health, and decreased environmental pollution (International Plant Nutrition Institute [IPNI], 2012). 4R nutrient stewardship provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals--increased production, increased farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection, and improved sustainability. Assessment of any planned nutrient management practice must consider the economic, social, and environmental effects to determine whether or not it is a "right" practice for that system. Because it is not a one- practice or one-plan-for-all-program, the 4R framework is applicable for all cropping systems and nutrients, and it can be applied to a diverse range of agricultural system types and sizes. The overarching goal of 4R is to match nutrient supply with crop requirements and to minimize nutrient loss from farm fields. NRCS updates As a result of the USDA CEAP reports, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) updated its existing 590 nutrient management conservation practice standard. The standard was always intended for use with both commercial and organic fertilizers, but in practice it was generally used for manure management. Because the CEAP reports indicated a need to address both manure and commercial nutrients, as well as to address practices tied to form, amount, timing, and placement, the NRCS incorporated 4R language and practices into the revised standard (USDA NRCS, 2012). The 590 standard is used to provide growers incentive payments related to nutrient management implementation, and in the past many states have incorporated the 590 into their animal feeding operation policies for nutrient management. Current incentive programs incorporating 4R related practices include the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. Both provide payments to farmers on a per acre basis to implement nutrient management plans and related practices. State efforts To address nitrogen and phosphorus losses as directed by the 2011 EPA memo, each state will ultimately decide what approaches to use. Many states, from Florida to Minnesota, are already incorporating the 4Rs within their efforts. Below are examples of state actions using 4R nutrient stewardship in their approach. Illinois. Following receipt of the EPA framework memo, the Illinois EPA approached the state agriculture community to pursue their engagement in addressing non-point source nutrient losses from crop production systems. Through efforts within the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices, several entities have committed to a partnership to make measurable progress in the adoption of enhanced nutrient stewardship practices to protect water quality. The nutrient stewardship program titled "Keep it for the Crop by 2025" (KIC) is supported by the Illinois Corn Growers, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, Illinois Soybean Association, and the Illinois Pork Producers. KIC (IL CBMP, 2012) seeks to educate the agricultural sector, dedicate significant resources toward research to reduce nutrient losses and enhance nutrient efficiency, educate suppliers and farmers, and measure the adoption of in-field practices to enhance nutrient stewardship beginning in priority watersheds and expanding over years to a state-wide nutrient stewardship program. To fund "KIC by 2025" the stakeholders worked with Illinois legislators to successfully pass an amendment to the Illinois Fertilizer Act to establish a stable, industry-derived funding mechanism for nutrient management research and education and to facilitate industry and farmer involvement on nutrient and water quality issues. Ohio. As a result of nationwide industry efforts to increase the awareness of 4R nutrient stewardship and inclusion of the 4Rs in USDA NRCS messaging, Ohio retailers took action. In the spring of 2011, the Ohio fertilizer industry increased engagement in Ohio state water quality issues using the 4Rs and began spreading the 4R message to their stakeholders. Industry efforts led to recognition by stakeholder groups like The Nature Conservancy and the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition. Meanwhile, the Ohio State Department of Agriculture (ODA), the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Governor's office, and the Ohio EPA were considering voluntary ways to address non-point nutrient losses from agriculture in response to state water quality issues and the EPA guidance memo. As a result of Ohio fertilizer industry efforts and additional stakeholder engagement, the 4Rs were named the foundation of nutrient management efforts in Ohio for non-point sources. Given the announcement by the ODA and the ODNR, 4Rs gained broader recognition. In 2012, the Ohio Governor's office appropriated $3M to encourage farmer adoption of the 4Rs. Currently, a group of nutrient service providers in the state is working with stakeholders to develop a voluntary 4R certification program that will be used to recognize organizations and individuals capable of assisting growers with 4R implementation. Pennsylvania. In July 2012, the PennAg Industries Association formed an affiliate within PennAg to be designated as the "PA 4Rs alliance." The Alliance was created as a result of dialogue surrounding the revised NRCS nutrient management (590) standard. The goals for the Alliance are for PennAg members and other Pennsylvania agricultural stakeholders to collectively work with farmers to deliver science-based systems that improve crop productivity through increased nutrient use efficiency and to reduce losses of nutrients to the environment. PennAg has engaged farm groups, government agencies, industry, and certified crop advisors. The effort relies on collaboration. The Alliance, with Pennsylvania NRCS and Penn State University extension, is developing a communication strategy. The strategy will identify and publicize farm 4R success stories. Also, 4R fact sheets are being designed for use in a farmer incentive program application/contract process to elevate awareness of 4Rs practices for financial and technical assistance. The Alliance is also working with conservation district nutrient management technicians, private crop consultants, and fertilizer retailers in order to create awareness for crop management systems that will increase nutrient use efficiency. Industry efforts Fertilizer industry organizations are carrying out efforts to promote the 4Rs as a recognizable strategy for the economic, social, and environmental elements of sustainable cropping systems. The goals are to expand implementation of the 4Rs by service providers on the farm, as well as increase awareness of efforts to boost adoption of the 4Rs among the general public and policy developers. This must be done with sound science and research. Also important are educational tools
Early Spring 2013