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Delmarva C4R Alliance

Willard works with the Delmarva C4R Alliance to advance agriculture and the environment

The Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance and University of Maryland Extension hosted over 135 farmers, agribusiness professionals, and academic and conservation partners at their 4R Technology Field Day on August 15, 2018 at the Wye Research and Education Center in Queenstown, Maryland. The framework for the 4R’s of Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place) were first established by The Fertilizer Institute to advance economic, environmental, and social well-being of farms. Maryland and Delaware farmers are considered leaders in nutrient management and the Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance seeks to inspire them to go even further toward economic and environmental sustainability. Ken Staver, Director of the Wye Research and Education Center (WREC) welcomed the crowd by encouraging them to “go beyond the surface and really dig into the topics, ask a lot of questions.”

At Wednesday’s event, participants interacted with extension educators and agribusiness professionals at four stations featuring source, rate, timing and placement of fertilizer. Dr. Nicole Fiorellino, new agronomist with the University of Maryland (UMD), focused on ideal placement and timing of fertilizer in order to put the nutrient right where the crop can utilize them. Former Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer Bobby Hutchison had a breakthrough moment during her talk and told Fiorellino, “I think you just solved one of my mysteries. I thought my issue had to do with nitrogen deficiency but it sounds like it could be phosphorus placement,” said Hutchison.

Dr. Jarrod Miller of the University of Delaware (UD) highlighted his work with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles equipped with various camera technologies to determine plant health throughout fields and scout for problem areas. Dr. Ken Staver shared decades of monitoring data collected at the WREC that illustrated the importance of full season nutrient management and including practices that capture nutrients post-season like cover crops and at the edge of fields such as buffers.

A panel moderated by Dr. Amy Shober of UD featured Kyle Hutchison and Jon Quinn, farmers from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Kyle Hutchison described using three different methods to determine the right rate for his nitrogen side-dress application and all three giving him a different answer. Both Hutchison and Quinn conduct on-farm research in partnership with University scientists to determine what the right “R’s” are for their fields.

This spring was among the wettest on record for the Delmarva making it difficult for farmers to plant their crops and apply nutrients when necessary for plant growth without losing them during the next rain storm. Dr. Bob Kratochvil of UMD guided participants in digging into how to farm within the bounds of their nutrient management plan and save their crop in extreme weather conditions. Kratochvil emphasized the importance of split nitrogen applications at the right time and the right rate to reduce the risk of nutrient loss.

The Delaware-Maryland 4R Alliance is a collaboration between agribusinesses, farmers, government agencies, conservation groups and scientists. They are working to ensure that every nutrient application on Delmarva is consistent with the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship. The focus is on increasing implementation of 4R practices to benefit the economic, environmental and social well-being of our region and our farmers. The Chesapeake Bay Program has recognized this type of nutrient management as a critical foundation to successfully reducing nitrogen and phosphorus loss on farms.

“The 4R Alliance is bringing together diverse groups to find solutions to improve water quality and aquatic habitat in a way that makes sense for farmers. Our agribusiness partners have been the driving force behind the partnership that is leading to large-scale outcomes,” said Keiller Kyle, Agricultural Specialist with The Nature Conservancy.