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Proactive farming earns 4R Advocate award for Madison

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the heart of the U.S., Alan Madison of Walnut strives to be the best nutrient steward he can be. To do this on his corn and soybean operation, Madison uses fertilizer best management practices to help improve nutrient use efficiency.

“Illinois ag retailers and their customers are eager to embrace the 4R principles because it focuses on key elements important to the ag industry: maximizing productivity, optimizing nutrients and minimizing environmental impact,” said Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association.

In recognition of his efforts, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) recently named Madison as a 2013 4R Advocate. Madison and his agronomic service provider, Ag View FS, were one of five grower/retailer pairs to win the accolade and receive an all-expense paid trip to the 2013 Commodity Classic, held in Kissimmee, Fla., at the beginning of March. The grower and retailer pairs were also honored at an awards ceremony hosted by TFI. Additionally, these advocates will be part of TFI’s outreach efforts to promoted science-based nutrient stewardship practices based on its 4R initiatives.

4R Advocates are agricultural growers and retailers who are leading the way when it comes to using 4R nutrient stewardship on the farm. 4R nutrient stewardship provides a framework to achieve cropping system goals, such as increased production, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability. To achieve those goals, the 4R concept incorporates using the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, and the right time and in the right place.

Madison was nominated by his crop advisor, Malcolm Stambaugh of Ag View FS. Together, Stambaugh and Madison’s goal is to farm every acre within tolerable soil loss capabilities and to be recognized as a leader in soil and water conservation practices, and to do this as economically and efficiently as possible.

“Our role is to partner with growers to establish best management practices,” Stambaugh said. “A grower’s willingness to push the envelope is only tempered by our requirements to increase yield, do it profitably for the grower and have an environmentally neutral impact. This expands well beyond product-related decisions.”

Stambaugh was unable to attend the Commodity Classic, and so Mark Orr, Ag View FS general manager, participated with Madison at the event.

A host of fertilizer best management practices help Madison to achieve this goal. He uses conservation tillage with two-thirds of the acres in no-till or strip-till to reduce runoff, erosion and energy costs. To reduce nutrient leeching in the winter, Madison uses cover crops such as tillage radishes and ryegrass to take up excess nutrients for use in the following growing season and to protect the soil.

To save on seed and chemical costs, he uses GPS planter row shut-offs to avoid overlaps and GPS shut-offs on sprayer boom sections to avoid over application. The Soil and Water Conservation District also helps Madison and Stambaugh develop and implement nutrient management plans.

“In concept, a lot of producers are using the 4Rs because they make sense and provide an economical advantage,” Madison said. “As an industry, we need to better tell our story to show consumers and other producers how it works. We are being the best nutrient stewards we can be while protecting the environment for future generations.”

“We are very proud to have a 4R advocate winner in Illinois; their support of these stewardship principles on their farm is a positive reflection on Illinois agriculture and illustrates how farmers and ag retailers are participating in voluntary efforts to better our industry and demonstrate our responsibility to the environment,” Payne said.

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