Fertilizer Institute recognizes 4R Advocates

The Fertilizer Institute recently recognized five farmers and fertilizer retailers for implementing 4R fertilizer management practices that increase production and reduce their environmental impact. The High Plains region is represented on this list by Chuck and Darin Dunlop from Parker, Kansas, and their retail partner Jason Sutterby with AgChoice in Moran, Kansas.

The right source, the right rate, the right time and the right place are the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship. Implementing these 4Rs is part of a properly managed fertilizer application program.

“We talk a lot about 4R Nutrient Stewardship at TFI, but these practices only work if they are used on the farm,” said Chris Jahn, TFI president, said. “The 4R Advocate program is our way of recognizing good work when we see it.”

For many years Chuck and Darin Dunlop fall applied anhydrous ammonia for their corn crop. Chuck Dunlop said they used a flat rate across all of those acres.

“We put all of the nitrogen on in the fall and then we would get some big spring rains,” Dunlop said. “We just never knew how much of it ended up going down the creek or how much we had left for the crop.”

A few years ago their local fertilizer dealer talked to them about changing their fertilizer management program. They started by grid sampling their fields to find out how much nitrogen was present in the soil profile. Next, they did test plots looking at three different nitrogen strategies.

“One reason they approached us is that they knew we had yield map data from the combine going back several years,” Dunlop said. “We had all of this yield data but we weren’t really doing anything with it.”

They picked a program that would work on their farm and tried it on 700 acres the first year.

Their fertilizer program today begins with an application of dry fertilizer put on in the spring when they work the ground. After the corn is planted, they put on 20 to 30 pounds of nitrogen as a carrier for the post emerge herbicides.

“Just enough to keep the corn going until we topdress,” Dunlop said.

Before the corn crop reaches the V7 growth stage they go over the top with a sidedress application. This is a variable rate application.

“We used the yield maps to identify areas that have the potential to raise more corn versus a rocky hilltop that only has so much potential unless it rains every three to four days,” Dunlop said. “More fertilizer goes on the spots with more potential and we cut back on the areas with less potential.”

Dunlop can’t say he is using less fertilizer but he can say he is getting more out of it. Yields are increasing on the best acres and less fertilizer is being lost to heavy spring rains.

“I think it is a pretty good deal with environmental benefits,” Dunlop said.

According to the Fertilizer Institute the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program is an innovated and science-based approach that offers enhanced environmental protection, increased production, increased farmer profitability and improved sustainability. The 4R Advocate program is one of many facets of a high-priority campaign to raise awareness and adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices.

Doug Rich can be reached at 785-749-5304 or [email protected].