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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