Guest Post: Food is Food. Make the Most of It.

By Nate Pierce, Agronomy Business Director, GROWMARK, Inc. 

Everything that lives also eats.  We might not think about it often, but the reason living things eat can be summarized in one simple statement:  all -- people, animals, insects, microbes and plants -- consume and convert food to usable energy for their own fruitful productivity. 

When Midwest corn farmers talk about managing nitrogen, they are talking about feeding plants to help produce a bountiful crop. 

The principles of food consumption are common across all biologic classifications, where balance seems to be the common theme.  In feeding corn, success means delivering enough to the crop to optimize yield and profitability while minimizing losses to water and air.  Farmers, who understand the chemistry of nitrogen, and plants’ use of the element, are in the best position to apply management practices that further environmental and economic goals. 

4R nutrient stewardship (right source, right rate, right time, right place) provides a framework to achieve all cropping system goals - increased production, farmer profitability, enhanced environmental protection, and improved sustainability.   In the GROWMARK/FS System, the conversation between crop specialists and farmers has changed over the years to achieve this framework.  The conversations today focus on individual N management plans and ways to continually improve those plans. 

Developing a better N management plan begins with an N-WATCH study on active acres. N-WATCH is a management tool designed to inventory, track, and verify plant-available N in the upper two feet of soil. It provides farmers a way to estimate potential N losses at a specific point, and incorporate economics and environmental considerations into the N decision-making process.  

The FS Cooperatives of Iowa (Agriland FS, AgVantage FS, New Century FS, Three Rivers FS) utilize this tool. The FS System is grounded in science-based, profit-supporting agronomy that honors environmental stewardship. Managing nitrogen -- the key nutrient for optimal plant development -- is part of this science-based approach.