UF/IFAS 4Rs program helps growers use best management practices for fertilizer use

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers have introduced the Four RIGHT (4Rs) program to help Florida growers maximize the use of nutrients and fertilizers while minimizing the impact on the environment. The program helps growers use the right fertilizer in the right place, at the right time, using the right method. The results are less fertilizer use and improved crops.

Four RIGHT (4Rs) programRight Source | researchers and growers consider the cost, whether an organic substance should be used and the efficiency of the fertilizer. It might also include considering whether a dry or wet fertilizer should be used and how easy it is to use.

Right Rate | researchers suggest agricultural producers test their soil prior to application for annual crops and at least once per year for perennial crops to see how much fertilizer the soil will need. The right rate refers to UF/IFAS recommendations on the amount of fertilizer needed for the crop production season, and is based on extensive research over locations, crops, varieties and years.It also refers to the amount of fertilizer applied at one or several times during the growing season.

Four RIGHT (4Rs) PrinciplesRight Placement | means nutrients need to be placed where the plant will have the best access to the nutrients. For most crops, the right placement is in the root zone or just ahead of the advancing root system. Most nutrient uptake occurs through the root system, so placing the nutrients in the root zone maximizes the likelihood of absorption by the plant.

Right Timing | the growth pattern of the crop is taken into consideration as well as the natural changes in nutrient demand during the season. Crop development begins slowly from seed germination or transplanting, then increases through fruiting, and finally slows down at maturation. Anticipating changes in growth and nutrient demand is important so that fertilizer application can be timed to meet the needs of crop plant growth and yield.

All four elements of the 4Rs program work together to help growers farm in the best possible way, because their efforts impact everyone. The 4Rs elements work together to address such things as food security and safety, soil fertility and quality, and non-renewable resources. All of these things have a direct impact on human wellness and quality of life.