by Greg Wandrey, Iowa agriculture program director, The Nature Conservancy and 4R Plus program coordinator

 

The 4R Plus program is a science-based framework to increase awareness and provide information on 4R nutrient stewardship and conservation practices in order to improve soil health, crop yields and water quality. Since launching in February, we have remained focused on the goal of spreading the 4R Plus message.

With the growing season underway, now is the perfect time for farmers to be thinking about the best nutrient and conservation practices for their land while they work to protect yield potential. They can do this by attending field days and other events this summer and fall to learn about these practices from fellow farmers and agricultural experts.

4R Plus is gaining momentum among agricultural and conservation stakeholders in Iowa. At the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit held in Des Moines earlier this month, it was evident the 4R Plus message is becoming more well-known. The objective of the 4R Summit is to provide opportunities to learn about 4R nutrient stewardship, the interactions of 4R practices with other on-farm conservation practices, and how farmers and others are implementing 4R principles.

Tony Will, president and CEO of CF Industries, delivered the keynote presentation at the summit and said 4R Plus is a fundamental change in the discussion and the way in which we partner with farmers to ensure the soil is left in the best possible condition for future generations. He encouraged participants to adopt the 4R Plus terminology and share success stories to accelerate adoption.

Will also highlighted a couple of Iowa farmers who have adopted 4R Plus practices, like strip-till and cover crops. These farmers have seen a corresponding benefit in soil health, water infiltration and less runoff, while increasing their productivity and profitability.

Will concluded by saying we will remain focused on bringing stakeholders together, providing consistent messages to farmers and crop advisers and provide education about the tools available for them.

At the summit, it was also encouraging to hear presentations about how nutrient providers are adding conservation resources to their offerings. This tells me people are looking at nutrient management and conservation practices as a suite of practices for farmers to consider in their operations.

Marty Adkins, assistant state conservationist with the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, reminded summit participants there is more crossover than ever between agricultural and conservation stakeholders, whereas in the past, they were running on parallel tracks. This is a sign the right conversations and collaborations are happening across the state.

We were also told at the summit by Ben Gleason, Iowa Corn’s sustainable program manager, that Iowa has seen a substantial increase in the use of the 4R nutrient practices over the last three years. But he reminded the audience that alone won’t be enough to meet water quality goals and that conservation practices need to be part of the solution to reach the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s goal of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus loading into Iowa waters by 41 and 29 percent, respectively.

And finally, we have added our voice to Twitter as a means of increasing audience reach and engagement with farmers, crop advisers and other stakeholders. Tag @4RPlus on relevant content and use #4RPlus on your tweets. Click here to follow us, and feel free to tweet this blog to increase awareness of 4R Plus.