Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
The 4R Summit, which provides opportunities for key learnings in nutrient management and stewardship, was held in Minneapolis earlier this week. At the conference, Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) Executive Director Adam Birr spoke to the group about Minnesota corn farmers as national leaders who seek to bring the best environmental stewardship to modern agriculture.
“4R” refers to the ideal use of fertilizer: placing the nutrient from the right source, at the right rate, in the right time and at the right place, which benefits the farmer economically, while also achieving environmental goals. To learn more about 4R principles, click here.
At the conference, Birr spoke about the many key learnings through research and discovery that has led to more efficient use of nitrogen.
“Educational partnerships are the key to moving from discovery to implementation,” Birr told the audience featuring 250 of the nation’s top academics and private industry representatives in the field of crop fertilization. He went on to highlight the Nitrogen Smart program, which trains farmers on best available practices to maximize economic returns on nitrogen fertilizer input, while simultaneously reducing losses from soil surface run-off.
Created in partnership with the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center and University of Minnesota Extension Service, Birr stressed the three-hour Nitrogen Smart sessions do not push farmers to reduce nitrogen application.
“We let the trial results speak for themselves,” says Birr. “The farmers select what program works best for their operation.”
The majority of participants in Nitrogen Smart indicate in surveys that their goal is to reduce nitrogen use overall. More than 500 growers, whose operations represent well over 300,000 acres of corn production, have taken part in 21 sessions held in locations across the state.
Nitrogen Smart is part of MCGA’s strategic vision to make Minnesota corn farmers the most sustainable and environmentally responsible in the nation, Birr told the 4-R Summit attendees. Birr also described MCGA’s new Innovation Grant program, which invests more than $250,000 in 23 farmer-led research projects focused on conservation. Each project focuses on how to better protect water quality and improve nitrogen management, more specifically.
Birr was introduced to the 4R Summit by Warren Formo, the director of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, which has planned a field day for 4R technology in Northfield on Tuesday, July 25.
“Nutrient management is so important to the things we do,” Formo says. ”All the improvements we are working on, striving to make in agriculture, in water issues, so that we can continue to produce the things that make life better while continuing to reduce the impact on the environment.”