Nutrien Ag Solutions Leipsic/Ottawa achieved its Year Four 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification in 2022. Employees pictured, in the front (left to right) are Logan Kaufman, Matthias Wenzinger, Sue Steingass, Abby Niese, Siler Casillas, Dave Steffan. Back (Left to Right): Nick Morman, Don Lause, Logan Douglas, Alex Ellerbrock, Charles Newland, Steve Goedde, Jarid Goedde, Lyndsay Roberts, and Brenda Maag.

The tools of a trusted advisor

By Matt Reese

While the 4Rs are focused on the relationships between practices of managing of nutrients in farm fields, Nutrien Ag Solutions has found the 4Rs can also help build customer and community relationships as well.  

Nutrien Ag Solutions is the retail business of Nutrien, the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services. The brand was established in 2018 after Nutrien was formed through the merger of PotashCorp and Agrium. Nutrien Ag Solutions now has 10 Ohio 4R Certified retail facilities located in Attica, Upper Sandusky, Polk, Hamler, Delphos, Findlay, and Leipsic/Ottawa. The 4R certification has been a benefit in establishing and enhancing local customer relationships, said Katy Boots, precision ag lead for the Northern Ohio Division of Nutrien Ag Solutions.

“With our customers, we look at being their trusted advisor. With the 4Rs, they were kind of hesitant at first, just because it was something new back in 2015,” Boots said. “After sending 4R information and signature sheets to property owners, they were reluctant to apply and sign. However, after repeatedly encouraging them to participate, they thanked us for providing insight into how growers and retailers are taking care of their land by using precision technology, science, cover crops, and nutrient stabilizers. Since then, it’s grown. Ultimately, they want to be successful on their farms and do what’s right for the environment as well. If we had not become 4R Certified, that communication with property owners and others would not have occurred and many growers would continue to believe they are too far from the lakes to make a difference.”

The 4R Certification has also contributed to improvements in Nutrien products and practices.

“It has led to developing tools which better utilize nutrients and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the products and services we offer resulting in giving back time, money, and peace of mind to our customers and employees,” Boots said. “Since becoming 4R certified we have increased the confidence and understanding for both our customers and employees to the need of utilizing digital and precision tools, enhancing nutrient use efficiency practices, and promoting this with advocates outside the agriculture community.”

While many of the broad 4R principles were already in place at Nutrien Ag Solutions, the certification process helped (and continues to help) assess the success at the retail level.

“We do our audit for the certification where we’re evaluating what we did over the last year, especially looking at what we did with our customers in terms of the sustainable practices needed for the 4Rs and doing the right thing for the environment,” Boots said. “We’ve always wanted to do the best thing for the land and the water quality, of course, but through the certification we had to tweak a few things just to make updates. Especially with the new Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations, there were some adjustments and some tweaking back in 2020 and 2021.”

The 4Rs set up Nutrien customers for environmental success and profitability.

These practices make a real difference for the farms involved and water quality in general, but also showcase to the non-farm community that farmers are implementing environmentally friendly practices. 

“Becoming 4R Certified has taught us we are making a positive impact in the community and our environment,” Boots said.  “This all aligns fairly well with the principles of our company. Enhancing nutrient use and the increased efficiency of our products combined with the 4R practices advocates to those outside the ag community as well. It lets them know ag retailers and farmers are doing the right things.”

Nutrien Ag Solutions retail facilities help customers implement 4R practices on the ground through grid and zone soil sampling and analysis, variable rate fertilizer and lime, variable rate nitrogen, manure recommendations, cover crop seed and application, generating voluntary nutrient management plans, subsurface placement, guidance on nitrogen sources, usage of nitrogen stabilizers, advice on other fertilizer efficiency products, and providing a pathway to receiving aid through multiple carbon and nutrient stewardship programs.

“Ultimately, we want our growers to be sustainable, but we also want them to be profitable. Those align very well for farmers and the 4Rs. We’ve been utilizing variable rate fertilizer technology for some time now but we’re using it more every year it and we’re using more nitrogen stabilizers and cover crops. Those are the main tools we’ve been promoting at Nutrien that have really helped our growers with the 4Rs,” Boots said. “And by using our precision tools to show them what the benefit is for their crops and their land, getting growers on board with this wasn’t hard. After that we, of course, offer the fertilizer recommendations, seeding and nitrogen prescriptions. The advancement of technology has been a success on the farms for the implementation of the 4Rs. It’s pieced it all together. And when we can combine the technology with the principles of the 4R, that’s where we can become the trusted advisor for our customers because we’re trying to make them more profitable and sustainable at the same time.”

This story is part of a summer series highlighting Ohio’s 4R Certified retailers and commemorating 10 years of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program.

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