Just as one of the most-publicized Summits in world history was getting underway on the Malaysian Peninsula earlier this week, The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) 2018 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit was kicking off in Des Moines, IA.
Noting the appropriateness of the meeting’s “Hartford of the West” setting (Des Moines is a big insurance town) when considering both the recent Des Moines Water Works lawsuit controversy, as well as the Hawkeye State’s long history as an agenda setter on all things conservation and nutrient management in large-scale production agriculture, TFI President Chris Jahn issued a somewhat provocative decree.
“At TFI our main goal is nothing less than getting all plant nutrients applied according to the 4R principles – Right Rate, Right Source, Right Timing, and the Right Placement,” Jahn asserted. “To do this it is going to take nothing short of a transformational change in how we grow our food.”
After participating in the two-day meeting, which included a snazzy opening night reception at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates museum across the river, I think it’s safe to say one of the many takeaways from the discussion is that Jahn is not being dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. The stakes really are that high. And while it’s undeniable that we’ve come a long way as an industry when it comes to nutrient stewardship and a focus on soil health and water quality, as many of the event’s speakers rightfully stressed, there’s still plenty of work left to do.
With all that said, here’s a few takeaways from the meeting:
“These nitrogen sensors, I like to call them a ‘Laboratory in a Box.’ Obviously, this sort of technology is very interesting to farmers, and is potentially more useful than climate modeling solutions. Certainly the interest is there (from the farmer).” -Joel Brinkmeyer, Iowa Agribusiness Association
“More than ever I’ve begun to realize that three different agronomists can look at the same imagery and all come up with three different answers for what’s going on in that field…it’s often up to the interpretation of the owner. And scouting is still where it’s at (with imagery). Remote sensing does not take away the agronomist, it does not take away the boots on the ground and the need to walk those fields.” -Brian Arnall, Oklahoma State University
“The development of a retail cover crops business is all about building those long-term, lasting relationships with growers. When we first looked at cover crops at Ceres we realized it actually was a good complement to our existing services. It’s at a time when things are slow for corn and bean growers, we already had a lot of the equipment, and it certainly didn’t hurt that management approved of it and many of those same executives already used cover crops on their own farms. It was about delivering something our customers we’re demanding.” -Betsy Bowers, Ceres Solutions
“Why do customers adopt conservation practices? Early on for us it was all economics, economics, economics, but over the last few years we’ve really witnessed a shift, and improving soil health has definitely come into play in Indiana.” -Bowers