Improving Water Quality, Soil Health and Crop Yields in Iowa with 4R PLus

Launched in February 2018 by a group of agricultural and conservation organizations, including the Nature Conservancy and IFA members CF Industries and TFI (the US Fertilizer association), the 4R Plus program combines 4R nutrient management – using the right nutrient source, at the right dose, at the right time, in the right location – to optimize nutrient use, reduce losses and improve yields with additional conservation practices that can help further increase soil resiliency, reduce erosion and runoff, and improve water quality.

These tools and techniques help farmers contribute to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy’s goal to reduce N and P loads in Iowa waters by 45 percent. Alongside the 4Rs, conservation practices such as cover crops, reduced tillage and buffer strips, help to retain moisture, soil and nutrients while reducing erosion and runoff. The result is healthier soil and cleaner water, with practices being particularly effective when used in areas with the greatest runoff, nutrient loss and soil loss.

A dedicated website teaches the principals of the 4Rs and conservation practices, while additional resources include farmer success stories and cost share options for implementing 4R plus. The program has also recently produced a series of educational videos that certified crop advisers can complete for their required continuing education credits, and also educates farmers about 4R plus through field days and participation in farming events.

With plans to further grow the program, members are working to see these nutrient management and conservations practices, and their benefits for both improved soil health and reduced losses to water, implemented throughout Iowa.