Mosaic is constantly looking for ways to help farmers use fertilizers efficiently, which benefits farmers' bottom lines as well as the environment. That's why Mosaic is one of the first companies to support the Conservation Technology Information Center's (CTIC) Upstream Heroes program.
Launched in 2009, the program strives to capture the attention of producers who are eager for solutions that save money and time. "Now is the ideal time for us to spread the word about successful farmers who are creating win-win situations on their farms by using the right product, applying it at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place — and saving money," says Karen Scanlon, executive director of CTIC.
According to Scanlon, the latest technologies in nutrient management are already succeeding in addressing both economic and environmental challenges, and CTIC is committed to sharing and explaining the technologies and exactly how they are working.
"CTIC has been a trusted source of agriculture information for more than 27 years," Scanlon says. "We are uniquely qualified to convey current, credible, unbiased information that farmers can use to manage nutrients cost-efficiently and environmentally. But that's just part of this mission. We also want to reach out to the general public — particularly to those involved in water quality protection and advocacy. We want to make them aware that farmers are being proactive in their stewardship of our water resources through nutrient management practices that protect water quality."
One farmer CTIC features is Jim Andrew of Jefferson, Iowa, who cut nitrogen use by 30 percent. Andrew notes that, even applying one-third less nitrogen, his 2008 corn yields averaged between 165 and 175 bushels per acre, and he expects to exceed 200 bushels per acre with the help of new genetics in 2009.
The key to success is getting down to earth and understanding your soil, says Andrew. He runs tests every four years at Iowa State University, and adjusts nutrient levels accordingly working with a commercial applicator and GPS-referenced maps that pinpoint areas to treat. He also pays close attention to the appropriate balance between his nutrients.
Each spring he applies his own anhydrous ammonia as needed, varying his ground speed during application to adjust rates. He says the tactic gets him within 10 percent of his target rate. Tissue tests before harvest shed light on how much nitrogen the crop has consumed, which in turn helps Andrew determine rates for the next spring's application.
Minimizing the flow of nutrients into local streams — and ultimately, into the Mississippi River that feeds into the Gulf of Mexico — starts with prescribing rates of fertilizer that are in-line with crop needs. The next step is helping ensure that the nutrients stay on the field and travel into the soil rather than flowing off with sediment during rainstorms. That's one of the driving motivations behind Andrew's commitment to no-till. Additionally, buffers surround his fields, capturing soil carried by storms before it leaves the field. They also protect the inlet to a drainpipe that empties into a drainage ditch and provides Andrew with a look at the effectiveness of grass buffers.
Andrews' approach to conservation — which covers all angles on his farm — makes him an Upstream Hero, says Scanlon. "He's clearly not afraid to challenge his assumptions, and to challenge conventional wisdom and the way things are always done." That reflects insight and courage, and the benefits that result go beyond his turn row, beyond his local watershed, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.