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Initiative launched in Iowa aims to enhance soils

Photo by Anna Hastert

Many agriculturists and conservationists joined forces Tuesday to roll out a program aimed to protect and enhance Iowa soils.

CF Industries, along with The Nature Conservancy, Tuesday unveiled 4R Plus. The program focuses on improving soil health by following the 4R nutrient stewardship practices – right source, right rate, right time and right place. It also encompasses conservation practices designed to boost production, increase soil resiliency, reduce erosion and runoff, and improve water quality.

Greg Wandrey serves as Iowa agriculture program director for the Nature Conservancy. Wandrey says 4R Plus brings the agriculture and conservation sectors together to deliver a consistent set of messages around conservation practices.

“The goal is to create awareness, not to make recommendations about what practices should be used on the farm. It’s more about providing awareness and information about the practices so farmers and their trusted advisor can work together to decide what works best on their farm,” Wandrey said.

Wandrey believes as farmers and crop advisors become more aware of such practices, they will be more likely to adopt practices which work for them.

“We’re not asking someone to go all cover crops or from conventional till to no-till,” Wandrey said. “We think farmers interested in these practices can learn from other farmers that are successful and try something. It’s a matter of trying something for the first time.”

The Nature Conservancy offers multiple materials for farmers and crop advisors. These tools can assist farmers and crop advisors by providing an additional source of information and contacts useful for implementation.

“One of our chief pieces of material is the 4R Plus Advisor module where we provide information about practices – both nutrient reduction and conservation practices – where farmers and crop advisors can go to get more specific information about a practice. It could be an engineer for designing a terrace or waterway or a cover crop seed advisor who has seed available for persons interested in planting them,” Wandrey said.

Support for 4R Plus continues to expand across the state, incorporating 30 organizations including: commodity groups, agribusinesses, conservation organizations, universities and others.