The 4Rs and NERP

Posted in: Environment     

03-0412 - The 4R’S And NERP 02

Every once in a while, I get a chance to slow down and think a bit about some of the information that’s coming at us in ever increasing volumes and intensities. Nitrogen management, nitrous oxide emissions and the carbon economy are some of the issues that come to mind.

Global nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is < 30%. With over simplification, this means that of every 100 units of N applied, 70 are lost to the environment where the effects are mostly negative while 30 units gets into the food, fuel, fiber (F3) produced in the world. Fortunately, the NUE is significantly better (50%) in North America; and for many growers working with an Agri-Coach, their NUE’s can easily be 70-80%.

The 4R’s: Right Rate, Right Time, Right Placement and Right Form

Right Rate(s) – what crop are you growing, what is your yield goal, what’s in the soil and what will be released = how much you need to add.

Right Times(s) – how close to seeding or yield/quality formation will the right rate(s) be applied. Are there any synergies that could be found/ created?

Right Placement(s) – as there are many options broadcast, banded (seed placed, mid-row, side band, dribble), foliar and various application combinations. What synergies are there? What are
the potential negatives? What are the SBU implications?

Right Form(s) – ammonium, urea, nitrate, organic, anhydrous, liquid, dry and various combinations are all form choices. How about ESN, Agrotain, N-Serve and combinations of all the above?

In the Carbon Sequestration field, Alberta’s new NERP or Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol is all about balance and directly related to the 4R’s and the efficient use of soil, manure and fertilizer nitrogen. Agri-Trend Aggregation President Bill Dorgan refers to this new protocol in his article in this AgAdvance issue!

But this, in a nutshell, is the protocol: how much N is in the soil prior to cropping, how much will be released, how much N is in the soil after the crop is grown, how much crop was produced, how was the N applied, when was the N applied, in what form and at what rate was the N applied? All of this data, which most Agri-Coach farm customers already have, will provide another carbon offset income stream. Alberta will be first and others will follow.

This all sounds like complicated business, and it is, except your Agri-Coach, supported by the Agri-Trend Agrology Network and data management system (ADSPro) knows how to manage and
track all of these details. More importantly, they also know that a key component to overall yield potential is the concept of Right Balance!

Right Balance – The Analogy

When I was a teenager, I dreamt of owning a ’55 Chevy 2 door with a tricked out 350 engine. The 4R’s are like a tricked out 350. You can do everything just right to get the engine at top performance BUT if the tires are flat you will only make a bunch of noise – inflating the tires is about THE RIGHT BALANCE. Making sure there is oil in the engine, in the transmission, in the rear end (with 4:11 gears), etc., etc., is about THE RIGHT BALANCE.

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Right Balance – The Example

For crops, let’s pick canola: you can have the 4R’s nailed but if your S, K, P or B is not available in sufficient quantities then you have a tricked out engine and a car with 2 flat tires that goes around in circles very fast.

The graph summarizes some 2010 data from a replicated canola trial in Ontario. In this trial, N was applied at various rates (0, 45, 90 135 lb N/ac) with and without S (18 lb S/ac). Without applied S, increasing rates of N dramatically decreased yields! By adding a moderate amount of S, they significantly increased yields and NUE. So, in which instance are achieving the goal of the 4R’s and NERP? Correct, when we are in balance! Now answer this please. How much S does a 60 bu/ac canola crop need to access? The answer is 33 lbs S/ac. Imagine if the
researchers had applied 36 lb S/ac instead of 18, what would have the yield potential been? Hard to say but we would expect even higher yields, better NUE and positive environmental

Agri-Coaches eat, sleep and think nutrient balance all day long. If we are to grow 10,000 years worth of food, fuel and fiber over the next 40 years, we must all do the same!

Elston Solberg, Senior Agri-Coach™
President; Agri-Trend Agrology Ltd.
p. 403.343.8288

About the Author
Elston Solberg

Elston brings over 25 years of research expertise to Agri-Trend, through his work as Head Cereal Specialist and Research Agronomist with Alberta Agriculture. In addition to his experience as a researcher at the University of Alberta, Elston also has experience in the waste management industry, including municipal and intensive livestock operations. He has authored, co-authored, and published many research papers in a wide variety of technical and industry journals, and has contributed to numerous articles throughout the ag-media sector. Elston and his associates have raised the awareness of copper fertilization, and he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on sulphur nutrition. Mr. Solberg was instrumental in the establishment of the Crop Diagnostic Training Centre near Edmonton. He has been involved in agricultural projects throughout North America, Europe, China and Australia, and is an accomplished speaker being well received by farm and industry audiences alike. As Head of The Agri-Knowledge Division, Elston provides leadership to our retailers (Agri-Trend Associates), consultants (Agri-Coaches) and farm clients by: Overseeing the agronomic integrity of all Strategic Crop Plan™ recommendations; Providing internal and external training through The Agri-Training Solution™; Managing The Agri-Trend Research Initiative™, and Developing Agri-Knowledge Tools for Strategic Crop Plan farm clients & Agri-Coaches.

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