Precision Ag: the Key to Making it ‘Just Right’ with the 4Rs


The 4R principles may seem pretty simple – use the Right source of nutrients, at the Right rate, the Right time, and the Right place – but how do you ensure you’ve got all 4Rs ‘just right’?

The innovation of precision agriculture isn’t just helping make growers more productive; it’s also helping to determine performance indicators when measuring the success of nutrient stewardship.

From an economic point of view, it’s easy to see the benefits of using precision ag tools; by taking into account the type of crop, the nutrient makeup of the soil it’s grown in and the specific areas of the field that need attention, growers can optimize their applications and increase profits.

But from an environmental perspective, precision agriculture has the added bonus of providing a way to measure sustainability performance in terms of the 4R principles. Here’s how:

The Right Source

Precision agriculture can help determine the best product for your field to ensure there’s a balanced supply of nutrients available to the crop. While this is going to make all the difference in the effectiveness of a plant’s uptake and growth, it also minimizes the potential for nutrients to escape into the environment as pollution.

At the Right Rate

Striking a balance between what crops need to thrive and how much the nutrient supply of the soil needs to be supplemented may be tricky,  but this provides a great opportunity to use precision agriculture tools such as soil analysis.  More precise analysis can help achieve this balance.  Proper nutrient balance will not only benefit crops, but will also reduce the likelihood that nutrients will be wasted and possibly impact the environment.

In the Right Place

Whether you have one acre or 1,000 acres, using precision agriculture tools such as global positioning systems (GPS) to help guide site-specific nutrient applications will help put inputs where they are needed, and reduce the chance for ‘off-target’ applications.

At the Right Time

They say timing is everything, but precision agriculture takes that to a whole other level. By taking into account a variety of factors, such as crop uptake and field operation logistics, deciding when to apply nutrients won’t just affect the outcome of the crop, but will also reduce the environmental risk level associated with nutrient loss.

So what’s one way of knowing you’re making good use of the 4R principles? Using precision agriculture, measuring the success of crop goals can also provide measurable indications of how well an operation manages 4R Nutrient Stewardship.