There is a lot of discussion related to sustainability and profitability in agriculture these days. In many instances, our thoughts may lead us to focus on one versus the other. Instead, our focus really should be on understanding how sustainability and profitability can and must go hand in hand.

To begin, we should define what sustainability and profitability mean. Sustainability focuses on enhancing environmental quality and the resource base on which agriculture depends while at the same time providing for basic human food and fiber needs. Profitability is a measurement of efficiency, and ultimately the success or failure of a business/industry. Agriculture must be both sustainable – to protect the resource base on which we depend, and profitable – to ensure the future success of the industry.

One area where GROWMARK and the FS System devote considerable time and energy is in our Endure Initiative, which focuses on reinforcing our commitment to sustainability and recognizing those practices that help us all endure and prosper over time. A key component of this initiative is Enduring Farm, a program that recognizes FS customers who implement nutrient best management practices enhancing profitability, nutrient utilization and water quality.

Enduring Farm, as well as all successful nutrient management planning, begins with the foundational nutrient stewardship principles – Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place.

Right Source ensures specific fertilizer products are matched to meet exact crop needs. In addition to product selection, Right Source recommendations should include management strategies that focus on minimizing potential product losses to denitrification, volatilization and leaching.

Right Rate promotes fertility application levels that optimize crop yield potential based on scientifically developed recommendations. Agronomic practices, such as accurate soil testing, VRT (Variable Rate) fertility application and utilization of recommendation tools such as MRTN (Maximum Return to Nitrogen), support the Right Rate philosophy.

Right Time ensures nutrients are available at the time when the growing crop needs them most. Right Time strategies, such as split applications and fertility application based on soil temperatures and environmental conditions, assist in minimizing the potential for nutrient loss due to leaching, runoff or erosion.

Right Place ensures nutrients are available when and where they should be for maximum crop utilization. Strategies may include avoiding nutrient applications to frozen or snow-covered ground, ensuring that nutrient products remain in the Right Place.

Formulating and utilizing carefully crafted nutrient management plans increases the potential for optimizing crop nutrient utilization, maximizing crop yield and minimizing environmental impact, all of which lead to higher levels of sustainability and profitability.

For more information on the Enduring Farm Program and ways to develop agronomic strategies that promote and implement sustainability, profitability and 4R Nutrient Management Principles, talk with your local FS Crop Specialist today.

Robert Bennett and Dana Hite serve as GROWMARK Strategic Agronomy Marketing managers.