The concept of the 4Rs is simple: apply the right source of nutrient, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. The implementation of the 4Rs is knowledge-intensive and site-specific.

4R nutrient stewardship involves best management practices (BMPs) that optimize the efficiency of fertilizer use. The goal of fertilizer BMPs is to match nutrient supply with crop requirements, minimize nutrient losses from fields, and maximize farmer profitability. Selection of BMPs varies by location, and those chosen for a given farm are dependent on local soil and climate, crops, management conditions and other site-specific factors.

Other agronomic and conservation practices, such as no-till farming and the use of cover crops, play a valuable role in supporting 4R nutrient stewardship. As a result, fertilizer BMPs are most effective when applied with other agronomic and conservation practices.


“The thing I’m most proud of on our farm is how we treat the land. We fertilize based on need and timing and placement. Having a sustainable practice in place is extremely important.”

Grant Strom, 4R Farmer

Right Source

Ensure a balanced supply of essential nutrients, considering both naturally available sources and the characteristics of specific products, in plant-available forms.

“It’s great for the environment, it’s sustainable, and ultimately it’s the best economic decision that farmers can make.”

Joseph Huebener, Agronomist

Right Rate

Assess and make decisions based on soil nutrient supply and plant demand.

“You cannot look at a yield map and dump fertilizer in a deficient area and expect results. You must first understand the problem and create a plan to solve it.”

Philip Osborn, 4R Farmer

Right Time

Assess and make decisions based on the dynamics of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and field operation logistics.

“The 4Rs have the potential to make each individual farmer’s operation more sound and more economically profitable.”

Adam Dexter, Crop Specialist

Right Place

Address root-soil dynamics and nutrient movement, and manage spatial variability within the field to meet site-specific crop needs and limit potential losses from the field.

“The land is what we need to survive. The soil that we farm—it’s not made every day.”

Kyle Lake, 4R Farmer

Take the Next Step

You may already be a 4R farmer. Tell us which practices are already working on your farm and, in less than a minute, we’ll tell you which ones might yield even better results.