New Program Assess Fertilizer Management Tools

Kelly Marshall

nutrientstar-logo-1a1The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has just launched NutrientStar, a new science-based program that reviews the performance of commercially available nutrient management tools.

Nitrogen is one of the most critical nutrients for row crops, but as much as 50 percent of what a grower puts on his field is not absorbed by crops.  This contributes to air and water pollution and extra expense for famers. To combat runoff and improve water and air quality several major food companies have partnered together to create a sustainable sourcing program.  While precision ag tools can help improve nutrient management, little data is available to document how the tools actually work in the field.

“NutrientStar will showcase how well products work in real-world farming scenarios,” said Karen Chapman, agricultural sustainability project manager at EDF and administrator of the NutrientStar program. “NutrientStar’s independent science review panel conducts rigorous assessments of all tools on the market, particularly looking at on-farm field trials, to determine how a tool works in croplands, in different regions, and on different soil types.”

Fertilizer management tools reviewed through NutrientStar include enhanced efficiency fertilizer compounds, such as nitrogen stabilizers, and decision support tools, such as optical sensor technologies or models used to aid nutrient applications in the field. Tools and products already assessed or soon to be assessed include:

Adapt-N (made by Agronomic Technology Corp.), an online software program that uses a linked crop model and soil model to estimate nitrogen rates for individual fields or areas within fields.
Fertilizer management products including N-Serve® (made by Dow AgroSciences); AGROTAIN®, AGROTAIN PLUS®, and SUPER U® (made by Koch Agronomic Services).
Reviews being made public this spring include: Nutrisphere N (made by Verdesian); Instinct II, ESN (made by Agrium); DCD; Thiosulfate; and, Slow Release Foliar N products made from methylene urea.
Assessments later in 2016 will focus on Fieldview Pro Nitrogen Advisor (made by Climate Corporation) and Encirca (made by DuPont Pioneer).

“NutrientStar is the first-ever review program to provide famers, their advisors, and agricultural supply chain companies with reliable data on the performance of these popular tools,” added John McGuire, EDF advisor and precision agriculture expert. “Farmers need certainty that the tools they purchase will work as advertised.”

An independent review panel has create the criteria for NutrientStar review.  The review will also include yield impacts and summarize cost/benefits, ease of use, and required data inputs.  These benefits will ensure farmers that their nutrient management tools are working and allows growers to showcase what they are doing to help the environment.  Food companies can offer improved transparency to customers and support farmers who implement conservation practices.

“As food companies’ demand for sustainably produced ingredients continues to skyrocket, they’ll need to support farmers and the entire supply chain in implementing on-farm conservation practices,” added Chapman. “NutrientStar will help food companies navigate the fertilizer management world, and will spark further innovation, research and development for better nutrient management tools.”

“NutrientStar also enables farmers to more easily execute the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, which include applying fertilizer at the right source, the right rate, the right time, and the right place,” noted McGuire. “NutrientStar complements the 4Rs by informing farmers on tools that will most effectively help implement these important practices.”

For more information on NutrientStar, including scientific assessment criteria, visit www.nutrientstar.org.

Conservation, Fertilizer, Nitrogen