I just got back to my hotel room after attending Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers’ Professional Liquid Fertilizer Program. I received the opportunity to address a crowd of about 250 folks, including the company’s area managers, on the subject of Responsible Nutrient Management.
Now, how you define Responsible Nutrient Management can mean many things, but in it’s simplest terms, I think it means being as efficient and effective as possible with your fertility program in a way that pays off economically and doesn’t negatively impact the environment.
There are a lot of farmers today who are doing a great job using the right rate of fertilizer at the right time and putting in a place that the crop can use. In fact, our No-Till Practices Survey showed that 59% of our subscribers are applying less than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1 bushel of targeted yield, with 17% applying less than 0.8 pounds of nitrogen per bushel. That’s pretty phenomenal when you consider in 1980 that farmers were applying 1.65 pounds of nitrogen per bushel of corn raised. Furthermore, only 13% apply fertilizer in the fall, while 40% apply spring pre-plant, 53% at-plant, 55% sidedress and 10% foliar.
Those are some positive signs that growers are making an effort to be as efficient and effective as possible with nitrogen without hurting their yield and profitability.
But there’s work to be done. You’ve got hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, phosphorus issues in the Chesapeake Bay, nitrates in the Des Moines River and the list goes on and on. Are farmers responsible for these ills? Yes, to a degree. But so can industry waste, sewerage runoff and residential lawn fertilizer runoff.
The problem for farmers and folks who work in the ag industry today is that they make up only about 1% of the U.S. population and there are folks who don’t understand ag and don’t want to take responsibility for their role in water ills. Instead, farmers tend to get all the blame.
So, there’s work to be done. We’ll keep looking to share the best fertility practices of no-tillers, and we hope you’ll keep looking to share your good practices with other farmers or perhaps with the people in your community who don’t understand agriculture very well.
We’d also encourage you to nominate any no-tillers whose fertility practices you admire for the Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners Program. You can learn more at www.ResponsibleNutrients.com.