The Fertilizer Institute honors Harris Farms as 4R Advocate

Fourth-generation farmer Wyatt Harris of Hepler, Kan., and MFA District Agronomist Shannon McClintock were honored as 4R Advocates by The Fertilizer Insti­tute (TFI) during the recent Commodity Classic in New Orleans.

They are among five farmers and their ag retailers who were recognized with this annual award for cham­pioning 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles, based on the right source, rate, time and placement of fertilizer.

“While 4R Nutrient Stewardship is a priority for the fertilizer industry, it’s also a tangible solution for thousands of farmers across America who are seeking practices that have real-world impact on their bottom line and their land,” said Corey Rosenbusch, TFI presi­dent and CEO. “We are proud of the industry’s retailers who work with growers to implement these practices at the field level.”

Now in its 11th year, the 4R Advocate program demonstrates the in-field successes of implementing 4R practices, which provide a framework to achieve in­creased production and profitability, enhanced environ­mental protection and improved sustainability. In 2021, the fertilizer industry committed to putting 70 million acres of cropland under 4R management by 2030.

“To win an award like this, I guess it shows we’re doing things the right way, and that’s something to be proud of,” Harris said. “I’ve learned that if you farm the way you should be farming, you’re going to be more successful.”

The 4R principles are found throughout Harris Farms, which includes 5,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in southeastern Kansas. Harris, who began farming in 2007, works with McClintock and MFA’s AGChoice affiliate in Hepler to optimize fertilizer and seeding rates and reduce nutrient losses on the farm. He enrolled in MFA’s Nutri-Track precision program, using tools such as grid sampling, nitrogen modeling, variable-rate application and prescription planting to improve production, efficiency and sustainabil­ity. He also switched to 100% no-till and introduced cover crops to improve soil health and erosion control.

“Fertilizer is a big part of MFA’s business, but we want to make sure we’re supplying the crop with what it needs and not overfertilizing,” McClintock said. “And the 4Rs go beyond fertilizer. They apply to seed selection and herbicide efficacy—fungicides and insecticides used in the right range at the right time for the right pest—always trying to be as efficient as possible.”

For Harris, that approach is paying off. Since he began working with McClintock in 2017, he said corn yields are up 10%, soybean yields are up 5% to 10% and fertilizer use continues to decline.

“Honestly, when I started farming, it was the old way I was always taught—conven­tional tillage, putting on nitrogen up front and not fertilizing to our yield goals,” Harris said. “I am trying to have a more competitive edge, so I have a future in farming. We keep fine-tuning what we do, never thinking we have anything perfected. You can’t sit back on cruise control. You have to get better every day.”

More information on Harris Farms and other 2022 4R Advocates can be found online at 4RFarming.org.

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Looking for the next Leopold leaders

4R Field Day, Oetting Farms, Concordia and corn harvest on farm of Kenny & Mary NiermanKnown as conservation leaders in the state, the Oetting family of Concordia were named the 2021 Leopold Award winners for Missouri. From left are Steve and his wife, Sharon; sons Sean and Clint and his wife, Veronica. The Oettings also have a daughter, Stephanie, who lives in Richmond, Va. Nominations are now being accepted for 2022.Applications are now being accepted for the 2022 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who go above and beyond in the care and management of natural resources. Nominees could win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

The Sand County Foundation, a nonprofit conservation orga­nization, presents the Leopold Award in 23 states based on such criteria as innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications. Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition of agricul­tural organizations including MFA Incorporated, partners with the foundation to bring the award to the Show-Me State.

In Missouri, the 2021 winner was Oetting Homestead Farms of Concordia, Mo. Previous state award recipients are the Yoder family of Leonard in 2020, the Brinker family of Auxvasse in 2019, the Scherder family of Frankford in 2018 and the Lam­bert family of Laclede in 2017.

“Missouri farmers and ranchers are continually striving through their stewardship to support long-term viability and productive capacity of their operations,” said Jeff Houts, chair­man of Missouri Farmers Care. “We are honored to highlight innovative leaders who are utilizing stewardship practices to meet an ultimate goal: improving land, air, water, habitat and land for the future generations of land stewards.”

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leop­old, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conserva­tion-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand Coun­ty Foundation president and chief executive officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate themselves. The application can be found at sandcountyfoundation.org/ApplyLCA or MOFarmersCare.com/lca. Submit applications online (pre­ferred) or mail to Missouri Farmers Care Foundation, 19171 State Highway 11, Kirksville, MO 63501. All applications must be submitted or postmarked by June 30, 2022.

Finalists will be announced in September with plans to pres­ent the award in November 2022.

More information on the award and its recipients can be found at sandcountyfoundation.org.

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Prioritize pre-plant pivot care

As the 2022 planting season approaches, irrigation experts urge farmers not to skimp on pivot maintenance. Favorable market conditions this year exacerbate the cost of leaving yield on the table.

“Properly maintained pivots offer yield advantages and can reduce input costs,” said Brad Dunbar, regional sales manager with Lindsay Corporation. “Spending a handful of hours ahead of planting could translate to thousands more dollars in growers’ pockets come har­vest due to reduced downtime and in-season service calls.”

Now’s the time for growers to prep their pivots for optimal results this season. Pay special attention to components that could have been damaged by prolonged freezing temperatures, ice and snow, including sand traps, drain valves, end gun valves and automatic valves that control water flow.

Here’s what Dunbar recommends prioritizing before planting begins.

  • Lubricate the pivot head to keep the pivot point moving freely during operation.
  • Inspect drivelines. Worn joints and driveline bolts are easy to repair at the beginning of the season but can be challenging to repair later.
  • Check sprinkler nozzles and replace as necessary to ensure proper pressure, which has a direct impact on water distribution uniformity and, ulti­mately, yield.
  • Check oil in gear boxes and center drive motors.
  • Check tire pressure to help maintain adequate flotation and prevent excessive gearbox wear.
  • Be sure to take any regional nuances into account and check with your pivot dealer on specific advice for your location.
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