In this episode of In The Dirt, Salford’s Jim Boak introduces us to AGRIS Co-operative agronomist Dale Cowan and the role agronomists play in helping farmers implement and achieve 4R nutrient stewardship.
Boak recommends farmers pay particular attention to how Cowan uses an approach called MOM to meet 4R objectives. This includes using the right fertilizer source at the right rate for your soil and crop and making sure the nutrient is available in the right form at the right time.
MOM stands for minimizing environmental footprint, optimizing harvested yield and maximizing nutrient utilization. Cowan believes farmers have a bright, sustainable future if they “obey MOM” on their farms.
Cowan notes that a successful 4R program starts with soil testing and the need to assess the nutrient capacity of the soil as well as its ability to supply nutrients.
Current soil tests – not more than three to five years old – are key to nutrient stewardship, he says. “Just as you wouldn’t use a financial statement from 1985 to make an economic decision today, we shouldn’t be doing that with our soil tests.”
With a strong understanding of soil nutrient levels, Cowan says farmers can then employ GPS and precision agriculture tools that provide tremendous opportunities for them to effectively manage nutrients on their farm.
If you missed the first episode of the In The Dirt 4R series, check out insights from Ontario farmer Leo Guilbeault and get a detailed look at how a focus on the 4Rs is shaping how he manages soil, nutrient decisions, tillage and more.