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Field day focuses on the 4Rs

When seeking a setting for the Missouri 4R Nutrient Manage­ment Field Day, held Sept. 22, or­ganizers knew Oetting Homestead Farms in Concordia would be the model location.

After all, the owners, Sharon and Steve Oetting, are leaders in agricultural conservation and sustainability. The Oettings, along with their sons, Clint and Sean, manage a hog-finishing business and grow corn and soybeans on land that’s been in their family for more than 180 years. They have been recognized by state and federal stewardship programs for reducing soil erosion, prop­erly storing animal waste, using precision agricultural technology, establishing pollinator habitat and riparian buffer strips, and other such practices.

“The things we are talking about today are things that Steve and I feel are important in the way we operate our farm,” said Sharon Oetting, as she spoke to field day attendees during lunch. “There’s a lot of family history here, so legacy is a big thing, and we always want to be responsible—mor­ally, physically and socially. We also feel like it’s very import­ant for us as farmers to tell our story of agriculture because people don’t understand what we’re doing, and they don’t understand that we’re doing it responsibly.”

The 4R Field Day was designed to help farmers, agronomists, crop advisors and other agricultural professionals better understand the benefits of nutrient stewardship and how to implement best management practices on their farms or with customers. Sessions included soil health, field buffer and pollinator plot placement, soil carbon sequestration, drone technology and precision nutrient application.

MFA Conservation Specialist Adam Jones, who coordinat­ed the event, said all of these topics support the 4R Prin­ciples of Nutrient Stewardship—Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place—which provide a framework to achieve cropping system goals such as increased production, better productivity, enhanced environmental protection and improved sustainability.

As part of the field day agenda, Jones and MFA District Agronomist Scott Wilburn shared a presentation on the reality of soil carbon markets and explained the pilot pro­gram in which MFA is currently partnering. David Doctorian, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service assistant state conservationist for partnerships and initiatives, used the NRCS rainfall simulator to illustrate soil health effects on nutrient management. Derrick Anderson of Rantizo, a company specializing in unmanned aerial systems for custom application, flew a drone to spread cover crop seed into standing corn. Steve Oetting gave a firsthand account of the farm’s conservation practices designed to improve wildlife habitat with additional information provided by Kent Wams­ley of The Nature Conservancy. And MFA Precision Data Manager Thad Becker led a discussion on soil testing and accurate nutrient applications, followed by a field demon­stration of the New Leader G5 spinner spreader that lets operators apply fertilizer with pinpoint accuracy.

“The 4Rs are all about how we utilize our nutrients in the most efficient manner to get the most value out of that mon­ey we’re spending on fertilizer,” Becker said. “If we use those nutrients wisely, we’re not only protecting our pocketbook, but we’re also going to take care of the environment.”

Along with MFA, other sponsors of the 4R Field Day were Corteva, Soil Warrior, Environmental Tillage Systems, Mosaic and The Fertilizer Institute. More details about these presen­tations will follow in upcoming issues of Today’s Farmer.

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