Wednesday, August 1, 2012

4R Tomorrow FAQ—Farmers

Q1: What is 4R Tomorrow?
4R Tomorrow is a program created by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (OFSWCD), with the support of the Ohio Soybean Council, to educate and promote wise nutrient management to conserve water quality and soil health using the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles, along with other conservation practices.

While the 4R philosophy was originally developed for the agricultural sector, OFSWCD’s 4R Tomorrow program expands these concepts even further—beyond the farm and into every Ohioan’s backyard, workplace, and community. The 4R Tomorrow program is about more than just fertilizer or agriculture; it’s about improving the quality of life for all Ohioans, now and in the future.

Whether we are farmers, teachers, parents, children, construction workers, wastewater plant operators, business owners, or government officials—we all play a part in the water quality and natural resource protection, and we all have the ability and the responsibility to conserve and improve Ohio’s natural resources for generations to come.

Through the 4R Tomorrow program, we hope to bring together all stakeholders of natural resource issues and illustrate how we all can be a part of the solution and contribute to a better tomorrow for Ohio’s citizens.

Q2: What are the 4R Principles?
The 4R principles are a comprehensive, innovative and science-based nutrient management approach that enhances environmental protection, expands production, increases farmer profitability, and improves sustainability. The 4R concept is to implement the four “rights”: 1) right fertilizer source, at the 2) right rate, at the 3) right time, with the 4) right placement.

Q3: What does it mean to apply the “right source, at the right rate, right time, and right place”?
The phrase “right source, at the right rate, right time, and right place” implies that each fertilizer management practice or group of practices is right (i.e., effective) in terms of the goals of sustainable production. It also implies that there are four interconnected aspects to every fertilizer application and provides a simple checklist to assess whether a given crop has been fertilized properly. Asking, “Am I using every tool available to choose the right product, to predict its’ right rate, to apply it at the right time, and to the place where its’ most effective for my crop, soil conditions, and weather” helps farmers and advisers to identify opportunities for improvement in fertilizing each specific crop in each specific field.

Q4: Who decides what’s “right”?
Traditionally a team of farmers, researchers, natural resource managers, extension staff, and agribusiness professionals, has decided what qualifies as a best management practice. Today there is still no doubt that the expertise of all these people is important to determining the right management on a practical basis.

However, nutrient stewardship issues today involve additional stakeholders — more than just those involved in cropping systems and other forms of nutrient management (i.e. wastewater management and landscaping/lawn fertilizing). Stakeholders also include the people living in the environment that nutrient management decisions impact.

The perspectives of all these stakeholders must be reflected in the economic, social, and environmental goals that are set for the cropping system. Nutrient management, to be considered “right” must support those goals. However, the farmer—the manager and steward of the land—is the final decision maker in selecting the practices—suited to local site-specific soil, weather, and crop production conditions—that have the highest probability of meeting those goals.

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