The world must grow significantly more food to cater to projections of 9.7 billion people to feed by 2050. While traditionally this would require more fertilizer, the production of commercial fertilizer requires a significant number of natural resources, can emit harmful emissions, damage the natural environment, and result in colossal water waste. As such industry leaders are looking for ways to increase application efficiency in order to grow more with less fertilizer.
Fertilizer application is not half as efficient as it needs to be to meet society’s needs without harming the environment. Approximately half the food produced in the world today is supported by Nitrogen fertilizer. This is problematic as repeated studies reveal nitrogen efficiency use in crops, defined as the ratio of crop nitrogen uptake to the total input of fertilizer, to range from 30% to 50%, meaning only 30-50% of all applied fertilizer is actually used by crops. Efficient use is maximizing yield with the lowest amount of fertilizer, and often the greatest efficiency results from the first increment of application, with additional increments of fertilizer nutrients usually resulting in a lower efficiency.
As such, what's missing right now is precise application of fertilizer. If farmers had the data and mechanisms to apply fertilizer at exactly the right rate for maximum efficiency, many of the challenges currently facing them could be resolved.
The 4R Framework as developed by Nutrient Stewardship has been developed in order to direct more sustainable fertilizer application. It focuses on applying fertilizer at the right source, right rate, right time, and right place.
To execute this strategy successfully, a large amount of data is needed. The science driving it is precision agriculture and the farm management software (FMS) behind it. FMS is integral to the industry achieving sustainable growth as it presents a solution to falling yields by facilitating precision agriculture, allowing farmers to manage crops to enhance yields and better serve growing consumption as well as increase profits.