The right source, right rate, right time, and right place —together, these make up the 4Rs of nutrient management.
In recent years, there has increased focus on 4R nutrient management as a tool of environmental stewardship, but in a year where input costs are through the roof, the 4R focus makes economic sense, too.
Bethany Wyatt, senior technical service specialist with BASF based at Saskatoon, Sask., says in this Canola School episode, that the 4Rs are essentially a set of principles for managing fertilizer application, that’s going to take economics, agronomics, logistics, and environmental stewardship into account. Wyatt explains the 4Rs in the school video below (story continues below).
“When we are talking about the right rate, this step is kind of ensuring that your crop has the proper amount of nutrients available to meet your target yield.”
“The right source would be utilizing products to ensure that the nutrients are going to be in the proper plant available form by the time of takeup.”
“Right time is essentially saying that the nutrients need to be made available as close to crop uptake as possible, meaning that if you’re applying too early, that could increase losses, not only on your bottom line, but essentially losses to the environment as well, which we don’t want either.”
“Right place is really ensuring that the nutrients are going to be as close to the plants as possible to ensure that uptake actually happens, but also to help decrease those unwanted losses to the environment.”
Following nutrient management isn’t new to many producers, says Wyatt, but even for the ones that really know what they are talking about — there is always room for improvement.
When it comes to economics, you could apply it to any of the 4Rs, but one of the ones we often pay attention to is right rate.
“We know that last year, many experienced extreme drought conditions, and one of the things that comes with that a lot of crops didn’t reach their potential yield, but they were fertilized for a lot higher crops. So there is the potential for residual or carryover nitrogen left in a lot of fields,” she explains, emphasizing the importance of soil testing in these cases.”You can maybe utilize some of that nitrogen carryover that you would have from last year.”
The key, however, is to look at all of these management strategies as a holistic approach. Just paying attention to one isn’t going to bring your crop or operation to the full potential it could be at.
Where we really see economics and agronomics coming together in the 4Rs is through right time, and right source, says Wyatt.
“One example of that would be if we are applying nitrogen in the fall — floating on nitrogen in the fall — we know there can be losses from nitrogen fertilizer. So if you are doing that, whether it’s from an agronomic or logistical reason, make sure that you’re using the proper product,” she explains. “Make sure your nitrogen has a urease or nitrification inhibitor to prevent those losses. Not only are you losing valuable nutrients if the conditions are right, but there was losses to the atmosphere, which we want to decrease, too.”