4R Advocates Honored For Adopting Nutrient Stewardship Practices

12:09PM May 28, 2019
Soil sample bags
Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) management get easier when you understand what a soil test reading is, and what it isn’t, says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.
( Lindsey Benne )

The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) awarded five farmer and retailer pairs as the 4R Advocates during an awards ceremony in Orlando, Fla., earlier this spring. 2019 marks the eighth year for the 4R Advocate Program, which has recognized 80 growers and retailers, farming 175,625 acres in 20 states, who continually demonstrate that innovative and sustainable 4R fertilizer management practices increase agricultural production while reducing environmental impact.

Those honored as 2019 Advocates are:

  • Danny Basham, Jr., Basham Farms, Madisonville, Ky., and Phillip Osborn, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Clay, Ky.
  • Michael Ganschow and Malcom Stambaugh, AgView FS, both of Walnut Ill.
  • Dustin Grooms, Fancy Farms and Jerrod Parker, Chemical Dynamics, Inc., both of Plant City, Fla.
  • Brian Herbek, DeWeese, Neb., and Bill Nejezchleb, Fairfield Non Stock Coop, Fairfield, Neb.
  • Jonathon Quinn, Warwick, Md., and Kenny Glenn, Southern States Cooperative, Middleton, Del.

Advocates represented the 4R program during last week’s Commodity Classic trade show and will be part of TFI’s outreach efforts to promote fertilizer management practices by hosting field days, participating in conference panels and speaking on behalf of 4R practices to farming peers for the next year.

“These advocates, as well as other farmers, rely on trusted retailers and advisors when making decisions about fertilizer application,” said Chris Jahn, TFI President and CEO. “TFI’s 4R Advocates serve as real-world examples of how implementing 4R practices on a farm can positively impact the bottom line and provide environmental benefits.”

The 2019 4R Advocates include:

Danny Basham and Phillip Osborn

Danny Basham, Jr., and his wife Kali, operate Basham Farms near Madisonville, Ky. The third-generation farm covers 5,000 acres. In addition to being named a 4R Advocate, Basham received the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce Famer of the Year award in 2017 and his grandfather, Harold, received the same honor in 1993.

The farm is located near churches, in residential areas and near watersheds of the Tradewater River area, Kentucky Lakes and the Ohio River. After harvest Basham reseeds ditch areas and slopes with wheat or rye for erosion and weed control. He uses no-till on as many acres as possible.

Basham works with Phillip Osborn at Nutrien Ag Solutions to incorporate a 2.5-acre grid sampling to create a four-year nutrient plan. Nutrient-deficient areas are slowly built up with additional nutrients to match crop needs. As these areas build up yield data is used to improve all areas of a field.

In addition to soil sampling, Basham incorporates variable-rate nutrient application, on-farm fertilizer and foliar trials, a nitrogen stabilizer and ESN to reduce volatilization and losses from the root zone.

Yields have continued to increase 5 percent to 10 percent over the last six years and the amount of fertilizer used has decreased.

Michael Ganschow and Malcom Stambaugh

Michael Ganschow’s family has bene farming for more than 100 years near Walnut, Ill., and attribute the business longevity to continually incorporating advanced management practices. For example, they incorporated no-till in the late 1970s and today use strip-till in corn and no-till in soybeans to reduce erosion and to build organic matter to improve soil health.

The Ganschows have implemented 4R strategies on the 2,700-acre farm for more than 10 years. They use the data they collect to create prescriptions to accurately place nutrients. This includes 2.5-acre grid soil sampling and analysis that is turned into maps and georeferenced with yield monitoring data to forecast crop removal rates. Variable-rate technology delivers nitrogen phosphorous and potassium at the right rate and time and has resulted in $15/acre savings in corn.

Ganschow works with his agronomist, Malcom Stambaugh with Ag View FS, also of Walnut, to jointly develop 4R protocols. In addition, they are involved in a local nutrient stewardship group that organized a water testing protocol for area farmers.

Nearly all of Ganschow’s fields with rolling landscape have grassways. Grass terraces control water and erosion on sloping fields, 50-acre buffer strips, 200,000 feet of drain tile removes excess water and a bioreactor for tile drains has the potential to reduce nitrogen losses in drainage by 25 percent are additional 4R practices they employ.

Dustin Grooms and Jerrod Parker

Fancy Farms in Plant City, Fla., has grown from 15 acres in 1974 to 235 acres today, 170 of which are used to grow strawberries. Founded by Carl and Dee Grooms, it is now managed by their son and 2019 4R Advocate, Dustin. He is supported by crop advisor Jerrod Parker with Chemical Dynamics Inc., also of Plant City.

Grid and zone soil samples serve as the foundation to amendments to the soil that goes under plastic. These results also guide what nutrients will be applied via drip irrigation delivered via drip tubing in the center of strawberry beds. Leaf tissue samples are used to make any needed adjustments in fertilizer rates.

A baseline of 150 pounds per acre of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous has been established by the University of Florida and is the starting point from which Grooms and Parker customize a nutritional program for each field.

Of the approximately 150 pounds of nitrogen, only about one pound is applied daily and is quickly taken up by the plants. Leaf samples throughout the season allow for real-time customization of inputs, reducing the risk of overapplying.

Additional 4R practices they engage include zone soil sampling, variable fertigation rates, foliar application, GPS planting and tillage.

Brian Herbek and Bill Nejezchelb

Brian Herbek, a fifth-generation farmer and his wife, Blythe, grow alfalfa, corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,900 acres near Deweese, Neb. For the last 16 years, they’ve worked with their retailer Bill Nejezchelb with Fairfield Non Stock Coop in Fairfield, Neb.

Herbek moved to 100 percent strip till 11 years ago and uses a SoilWarrior in a two-pass system for applying nutrients in the right place within the root zone. He also uses center pivots for fertigation which helps get nutrients applicated in the right place.

Herbek uses the strip till machine to place non-leachable trace nutrients in the row and leaves as much residue as possible in the zones to prevent washouts. He applies urea in spring in the zone at four inches deep. A Y-drop system helps get nitrogen in the root zone 10 days to two weeks before tasseling, a major progression from the one-time ammonia application he formerly used.

Soil sampling data is the foundation for the 4R nutrient management plan which is fine-tuned with in-season soil and tissue testing results. VRT nutrient applications helps place nutrients where they belong and cover crops improve soil health.

Herbek’s and Nejezchelb’s incorporation of the 4R practices is paying off. Nitrogen efficiency has improved to 0.8 lb/bu to 0.9 lb/bu, from an initial 1.1 lb/bu rate. Herbek is now getting 300 bu/ac using the same level of nutrients that delivered 200 bu/ac when he started implementing the 4Rs.

Jonathan Quinn and Kenny Glenn

Also a fifth-generation farmer, Jonathan Quinn, was one of the first in the Delmarva region to invest in a yield monitor. In fact, he incorporated the 4R practices before they were so named. Quinn’s little Bohemia Creek Farms covers 2,350 acres in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and includes corn soybeans wheat, barley and spinach. It is located in Warwick, Maryland.

Quinn and his crop advisor, Kenny Glenn with Southern States Cooperative in Middletown, Del., have applied 4R strategies for 20 years and have improved their plans every year since.

GPS, autosteer, the yield monitor, a 16-row variable-rate planter, 30’ air seeder and variable-rate sprayer are supplemented by satellite field imagery and soil maps.

Pre-sidedress nitrate tests, tissue samples and fall nitrate test help guide in-season nitrogen applications. UAN is variable-rate injected, even in sidedress applications to reduce volatilization. Cover crops help retain nutrients. Conservation practices include no-till, grassed waterways, riparian buffers and wildlife habitat.

The 4R approach works for Quinn. Corn and soybean yields are up 5 percent to 10 percent.

Like those before them, the 2019 4R Advocates demonstrate applying the right source of nutrient at the right rate, at the right tie and in the right place is beneficial for the farm, the environment and the communities that surround the farm.